The Girl from Ipanema, Pt. I

The Girl from Ipanema, Pt. I

A prelude to a strange trip into another world
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I’m still not sure why the girl behind the counter at that dingy pizza place affected me so much.

It was one o’clock in the morning and the place was a raucous mess. Alcohol had raised the volume of conversation to a cacophonous degree. I ventured to imagine the patrons were debating salient topics like the global economy or healthcare or race relations, things of at least perceived substance. Of course, I knew better, I was surrounded by drunken bluster and emotion being poorly quieted by greasy food, a sober minority amongst the overwhelming mass of the oncoming weekend. I wasn’t even there to get food. I was waiting for my friend, bleary-eyed and freshly off work, to pick up his order. I was tacked on, an accessory. An object with no real necessity in its placement.

Some rock song was blaring from the speaker overhead, but the heavy instrumentation and poor sound quality meshed with the incessant conversations turned it into an indecipherable audio soup. The speaker looked like something you might find next to an old computer desktop from the late 1990s, a cheap off-white plastic shell that had yellowed with age. It likely never sounded all that great to begin with.

I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, my hands dug deep into my pockets. Lint, two cigarettes, a quarter and a pair of keys in the left pocket. A dented and scratched flip lighter in the right. I usually bought men’s jeans just for the actual pocket space. If I hadn’t left my cell phone behind, maybe I could have played solitaire or skimmed through articles, promising myself to give them a proper read later only to never look at them again. I was standing off to the side as my friend had queued up behind three people. His impatience prevalent in his listless stance and tendency to run his fingers through his short, curly hair. I tried to count the number of times he raked his fingers over his head but quickly grew tired of the mental exercise.

With nothing much else to occupy me, I glanced towards the counter. It was a pure clutter of menus, receipts, phones and computers, but I found myself looking past all that. She was beautiful. Her hair was short and brown with the most subtle of curvature, the slightest suggestion of curls as if someone had tried to draw a straight line, but their pen had swayed gently back and forth. Her face was pale, almost ghostly white, with soft features. She reminded me of that song “The Girl from Ipanema” though I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. She wasn’t tall or tan, though she was young, and she was certainly lovely. There was something almost too gentle about her face, as if through physical presence alone she were enticing a lover to drift into comfortable sleep pressed close to her body, only to consume their soul in the night. Not like I even have a soul left to be eaten, I thought.


I was in Grade 10 when my soul was eaten. I was young and unbearably naïve. My hair was still long, just past my shoulders, and my face was forgettable enough to be drowned in that sea of dirty blonde bedhead. Junior High awkwardness gave way to High School awkwardness, and no amount of teenage vanity could save me from my seemingly eternal position as the loner. There were a few guys who would bum smokes off of me, and a few friends I had in various classes, but for the most part, I trudged along at the periphery of everyone else’s vision. I was comfortable enough with my routine, mundane existence. Well, that is, until he happened.

“Hey, you ready?” My friend’s voice cut through the haze.

I blinked, startled by the sudden interruption. “Oh, yeah. Sorry, must have zoned out a little.”

“A little?” He asked. He lifted his pizza box and nodded towards the door.

I followed him out, stealing one last glance at the girl behind the counter. The Girl from Ipanema. She was busy taking orders and flitting to and fro. It almost looked like a performance, like she was some sort of otherworldly pixie visiting the earth just to dance in the most absurd, unexpected places. Perhaps tomorrow night she would waltz through a McDonalds, the next day belly dance through a laundromat or maybe even salsa through a post office.

“You look like somebody just gave you ‘the talk’ for the first time,” my friend said as we walked down the sidewalk. He popped open the pizza box midstep to inspect his purchase. After a moment of scrutiny, he nodded, satisfied, and closed it back up. If I had done that while walking I probably would have ended up on the ground with my face buried in cheese and sauce. Only wayward drunks and the occasional police officer were out and about at this point. The reflections of streetlights glimmered over small puddles in the pavement, still wet from a brief morning rain.

“Oh god, really? You’re kidding, right? Was it that bad?” I asked each question in rapid succession, maybe a bit too rapidly in retrospect.

“Yep. Blushing the whole time. You looked the colour of The Communist Manifesto.”

“Jesus Christ, was that a Fifty Shades of Grey reference?”

“Maybe,” he grinned.

“I fucking hate you, dude.” I pulled a cigarette from my pocket and lit it. I savoured the hearty click of the lighter snapping shut before taking a long, warm drag. You could still smell the rain in the air, it hung heavy and low over the city.

“So you’re creeping on the pizza girl, huh?” My friend asked. He gave my arm a soft nudge with his elbow.

“She was just cute was all,” I said, trying to shut him down. Though she wasn’t just cute. There was something strangely alluring about her, something otherworldly. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was supposed to have spoken to her, as absurd as that may sound.


He was handsome. He was cool. He was the opposite of everything I was. Yet somehow he ended up choosing me. Of all the people in that godforsaken high school, it was me.

I suppose looking back at it now it just had to have been me. Lonely and quiet and feigning intellectualism. No dedicated group of friends to watch my back. I was too easy of a target for his affections.

I still remember the feeling of the breath catching in my throat, my body quivering as lust and childish romance overtook logic. I guess can only blame myself really.

He wanted a doll. I gave him a doll.


We waved goodbye. He scurried off into his dorm eagerly as I stomped out my cigarette on the sidewalk. I paused for a moment, taking a deep gulp of the cool, moist air into my lungs. My chest rose. I exhaled and relaxed my shoulders. My chest fell. I turned to head down the street back towards my apartment. By this point, it was almost two o’clock in the morning and the city was dead quiet. It had been eerie the first time I went for a walk this late, early my freshman year, but by this point, it felt entirely commonplace.

I took my time walking back. There was nothing for me in my room except a quiet, boxed in place for me to sit around and think too much as I tried to sleep. At least walking gave me something physical to focus on, something to do besides lazing about sleeplessly in bed. Why had that girl affected me so much? What was it about her that had demanded my attention? And why now of all times was I lamenting my lack of a soul? It hadn’t bothered me much before. In fact, I seemed to carry on decently enough without one.



End Pt. I

Cover Image Credit: tumblr

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A Letter To My Humans On Our Last Day Together

We never thought this day would come.
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I didn't sleep much last night after I saw your tears. I would have gotten up to snuggle you, but I am just too weak. We both know my time with you is coming close to its end, and I just can't believe it how fast it has happened.

I remember the first time I saw you like it was yesterday.

You guys were squealing and jumping all around, because you were going home with a new dog. Dad, I can still feel your strong hands lifting me from the crate where the rest of my puppy brothers and sisters were snuggled around my warm, comforting puppy Momma. You held me up so that my chunky belly and floppy wrinkles squished my face together, and looked me right in the eyes, grinning, “She's the one."

I was so nervous on the way to my new home, I really didn't know what to expect.

But now, 12 years later as I sit in the sun on the front porch, trying to keep my wise, old eyes open, I am so grateful for you. We have been through it all together.

Twelve “First Days of School." Losing your first teeth. Watching Mom hang great tests on the refrigerator. Letting you guys use my fur as a tissue for your tears. Sneaking Halloween candy from your pillowcases.

Keeping quiet while Santa put your gifts under the tree each year. Never telling Mom and Dad when everyone started sneaking around. Being at the door to greet you no matter how long you were gone. Getting to be in senior pictures. Waking you up with big, sloppy kisses despite the sun not even being up.

Always going to the basement first, to make sure there wasn't anything scary. Catching your first fish. First dates. Every birthday. Prom pictures. Happily watching dad as he taught the boys how to throw every kind of ball. Chasing the sticks you threw, even though it got harder over the years.

Cuddling every time any of you weren't feeling well. Running in the sprinkler all summer long. Claiming the title “Shotgun Rider" when you guys finally learned how to drive. Watching you cry in mom and dads arms before your graduation. Feeling lost every time you went on vacation without me.

Witnessing the awkward years that you magically all overcame. Hearing my siblings learn to read. Comforting you when you lost grandma and grandpa. Listening to your phone conversations. Celebrating new jobs. Licking your scraped knees when you would fall.

Hearing your shower singing. Sidewalk chalk and bubbles in the sun. New pets. Family reunions. Sleepovers. Watching you wave goodbye to me as the jam-packed car sped up the driveway to drop you off at college. So many memories in what feels like so little time.

When the time comes today, we will all be crying. We won't want to say goodbye. My eyes might look glossy, but just know that I feel your love and I see you hugging each other. I love that, I love when we are all together.

I want you to remember the times we shared, every milestone that I got to be a part of.

I won't be waiting for you at the door anymore and my fur will slowly stop covering your clothes. It will be different, and the house will feel empty. But I will be there in spirit.

No matter how bad of a game you played, how terrible your work day was, how ugly your outfit is, how bad you smell, how much money you have, I could go on; I will always love you just the way you are. You cared for me and I cared for you. We are companions, partners in crime.

To you, I was simply a part of your life, but to me, you were my entire life.

Thank you for letting me grow up with you.

Love always,

Your family dog

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.

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Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.


I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.


I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.


As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

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