The Movies Are Better Without You

Written by Gabriella Troy
Art by Tima Miroshnichenko

I usually love going to the movies. I geek
out about the cool sound effects and the
dizzying 3D flashes of motion and
all the ways I think a scene could have
been produced better. I get to forget
about all the work and responsibilities and
thoughts that bombard my mind with
constant stress: should I be embarrassed
that there’s a coffee stain on my belly button
and it’s already four PM I missed my lunch break
and ohgoshamIgoingtoendupjobless?

At the movies I don’t think about the possibility
of getting diabetes from shoving down mouthfuls
of junior mints and sugar-coated churros
because all that matters is the heroism of the
characters in front of me. I enter a world where
I cease to exist. A world where miracles and happy
endings are possible. Only when I jump up in
excitement and send my snacks sprawling across
the aisle am I shocked from my pleasant stupor.

You’ve ruined the movies for me. I never imagined
finding negativity in my favorite pastime, but
life has a way of tainting all that’s good. Movies
are the best thing ever and I would go every day
if tickets didn’t cost me hours slaving at Starbucks.
But, also, movies are the worst idea for a date so I think
I’m quite happy being alone for the rest of my life.

Here’s why I hate sitting next to you at the movies:
your long arm hogs the space on the armrest and
your fingers tap ceaselessly on your jean-clad knee and
I can’t focus on the screen in front of me. It’s all a blur
under my panicky thoughts. You turn movies from
an escape into Wonderland to a freefall into anxiety.

I never wanted to go to the movies with you anyway,
but a so-called best friend told me my life was pathetic
and you’d liked me for forever now—why not be brave
for once? I think there’s popcorn stuck between my teeth.

Unraveling These Ends

Written by Gabriella Troy
Art by Markus Spiske

You’re sitting in the corner by the fireplace,
knitting. You used to knit ugly christmas
sweaters and hats with pompoms and
fuzzy socks for the cold little feet of your
grandchildren. Today, and yesterday, and
the day before, you knit only scarves. Just
one scarf, long enough to wrap around this
house like a string of lights with every fourth
bulb dull. Your scarf is a patchwork of holes,
but I’d wear it anyway, if only you asked.

I still have every quilt you’ve ever sent me.
They don’t hang at the foot of my bed; they
smother me in a pile of memories at night.
Your nimble fingers used to weave intricate
stories of strawberry picking and feeding
geese at the playground and holding me
tight so I wouldn’t get lost in the chilly waters
of the cove. Last year, and the year before that,
and every other year I can remember you
enveloping me in the buttery folds of your arms.
I used to complain that your shoulder was too
bony to lean on, but I’d give anything now to
catch the scent of home under the gentle
curve of your ear: not the musty smell of old
people like I teased you about, but cinnamon
and blueberry scones.

I’m sitting on the other side of the fireplace.
You haven’t looked up in the last minute, or
the minute before, or hours ago when I first
claimed grandpa’s La-Z-Boy. I sit here most
of the time now, but it hasn’t lost the sweet
perfume of chocolate bits grandpa always
had tucked up his sleeve. Knitting isn’t my
forte: I have a tangle of yarn and needles
squeezed up against my chest. I’ll be
staying a little while, waiting for you to
teach me what to do with this mess.

Stepping on Cracks

Written by Gabriella Troy
Graphic by Lucy Pham

My feet have never been sure of their path.
They skim over earth like ghosts, terrified that
the ground will open up and swallow me
whole. Already there are cracks, spreading
like spiderwebs from every footstep, scattering
across the dry plateau of withered dreams and
whispered terrors.

My feet have only ever known the torture
of continuing in aimless direction. They turn
in circles, nauseating cycles of wearing away
brittle skin, swallowing against the desire for
something more, losing every inch gained
in the fear that surges around me
like a blinding whirlwind of dust.

My feet tremble as though a 9.5 earthquake tears
through the terrain. Engulfed by overblown
phenomena, they fear being split apart, being
stranded in ruin and answerless dilemma. But
it is just fear. They are afraid. The earth is fine.

Out of this natural disaster, the bare ground
will birth new dirt with seeds worth a thousand
lives in a million years to come, and the earth
will breathe natural wonder.

My feet stumble over the stories of the world,
worn from dreading every minuscule shift
of the plates beneath them. They will never
be sure of their path, but they can be sure
that each step leads them to change.

In all the dirt and dust and rocks and rolls,
my feet have stayed standing.

Take Me For An Airplane Ride

Written by Gabriella Troy
Art by Maria Tyutina

The lukewarm gobs of chicken
in a mystery brown sauce
are what I miss most about airplanes—
and the chocolate chip cookies
that are more chemicals and sugar
than anything else.

I miss the drone of the engine
drowning out the snores of the
eldery man seated next to me, and
the shrieking babies muffling the music
trickling through my old-fashioned earbuds.

I miss the panicked dash to the gate,
the lack of oxygen in my lungs as the plane
first tips into the sky, the cramp in my legs
fighting for space atop bursting backpacks.

Families never step onto a plane without a
breakdown of some sort; there’s always a
problem with tickets or luggage or delays or
whiny children. But they always step off
into a new place, a new day where
they take a breath of recycled airport air
and realize that adventure awaits,
whether it be food poisoning from
sampling street meats or enduring a
chatty cab driver on the way back to a
home that doesn’t quite seem like paradise

That’s what I really miss about airplanes:
the excitement of leaving the reality
of your own home for a bit, mingling
with crowds of diverse people you will
probably never see again, making
memories in a different language and
culture and time—everything infinitely
different from what you’ve always known.

Now I’m trapped by my bedroom’s
four walls: Boredom and Isolation and
Frustration and Hopelessness. These
walls used to be my refuge from work
and responsibility in the real world. They
used to feel like home, but I have gotten
to know them too well, like a pesky
sibling that pulls my dreams down the drain.

I wish an airplane would land on my roof
and take me for a ride back to everything
I never thought I could miss. Airplane food
would never taste so sweet after the weekly
rotation of home-cooked meals.

Paper Planes

Written by Gabriella Troy


My dreams are like paper planes
                                                           to the sun.
white angel wings
                                                            on the breeze
a blank canvas
                                                             my designs
i choose gold
                                                              sturdy limbs.

                                                              My dreams are like Paper planes
to the ground.
                                                               red rose petals
on the gale
                                                               A blackened sheet
my regrets
                                                               i choose bronze
wounded arms.

my dreams are paper planes
and tearing                                                                                                  
and somersaulting
to my feet..                                                                                                   

My dreams are paper planes                                                                  
and praying
and shaking                                                                                                
in my hands.


family dinners

Written by Gabriella Troy

my mother isn’t at the dinner table tonight.
she hasn’t been, for a while now, despite
her insistence that families are meant 
to bond over meals and find meaning in
school talk and laugh boisterously at the little
wonders of life, like the pasta sauce still
staining the edge of her sleeve. she’s forgotten
how to wipe away my worry, how to package
my problems in tidy folds of glittering paper,
how to glue my basketball trophy back into its
lofty glory. the seams of this family are starting to
fray without her delicate craftsmanship. she’s taken
on a new trade, grasping the spontaneous petals
of wistfulness that blossom in her mind like weeds,
leaving the roots of motherhood scattered on the dry
soil of this table. over the pan of soggy casserole, 
i can see she has that look in her eyes again. 
she pretends to to fill her seat, dutifully pushing peas 
around her plate. she thinks she’s successful, 
that her little smile can hide what’s splintering the wood 
between us—after all, my sister tunes out the world 
beyond the airpod tucked behind her hair, and my father
keeps his eyes down in his lap like he knows 
he should be ashamed of scrolling through bright
family pictures on facebook. those pictures are
staged. my mother’s smile is real: she’s dreaming
of a twinkling skyscraper office far from this
dingy kitchen and a big home to house dinner
parties with tables bigger than this chasm and i just 
wish she would let her fantasies float away
like driftwood so she could finally meet my eyes.

the red kettle burst on my stove

Written by Gabriella Troy

nana told me that 
the water would never boil
if i watched the kettle,
if i didn’t let the kettle
fill with pride on its own,
that the kettle couldn’t sing
if my glare withered its flames.
the red kettle burst
on my stove last night
because i stared with something
worse than a glare.

the kettle has never been fragile.
i have dented the kettle
and chipped away its paint.
i have doused its flames
with my midnight tears
and choked its song
with my self-destructive fumes.
the kettle never falls
from the burner, and
the kettle never fails to
keep my mind awake.

nana never told me that
watching the kettle with
the envy of a bubbling purpose,
with the dependence of a child
led carefully across the street,
would feed the kettle too much.
she never told me that 
too much tea would burn
me away to brittle bones
and leave me branded as 
the one without enough fire.

i thought the kettle could share
its warmth and lift me higher
on its steam. But the kettle burned 
ever brightly as tea exploded 
from its spout. I should have known
that the kettle’s song could be replaced
by my screams, that screams were all 
i ever sang, and the kettle 
would burst because of it.

no longer should the 
red kettle stand
on my stove. 

facing recovery

Written by Gabriella Troy

if i thought i could recover
i would try. 
but my mind, 
it’s a funny thing:
it doesn’t know my body.
it doesn’t listen.
it likes to fight
and hurt and crush
my personality into
ash so i am free
no longer to burn, black.
black, black, monsters
crowd my mind.
my mind suffers
an alien invasion 
and my limbs submit
to the whims of a puppeteer;
i have lost control and
i have lost myself.
i am neither a mind
nor a body,
just a chaos of pain 
and doubt and defeat
because i have rejected
if i thought i could recover,
i wouldn’t want to
fear would feed my monsters

i need someone to collect my ashes


i’ll just be

for now.

A Monster With Blue Nails

Written by Gabriella Troy

My fingernails are blue.
Blue blood circles sluggishly
through my tangle of veins,
rerouting and restarting and returning
to confusion because there’s no
GPS to my lungs. I think 
I’m breathing because there’s a 
rattling in my chest like a rabid
monkey aching to break free.
Or maybe I’ve been pretending,
and my nails know I’ve been
holding my breath too long.

I swim in the depths of the
ocean where it’s cold. I am always
cold and icicles have frozen around 
my heart and I have forgotten
what it means to have fire. The sunlight 
of the surface is only a shadow. No matter, 
I am a superhuman being with blue nails,
a Monster that breathes underwater. 
As I skim across the sands I am 
immortal because my skin, it’s 
weathered and worried and weary 
of the feelings that suck at my blood
like a parasite. Monsters can have no feeling,
no misjudgment of character that
buries them six feet under.

I must have come from somewhere, once.
The seeds of numbness sprouting in my brain
and twining around my heart must have been
planted, must have been nourished by a kiss
of darkness. I must have been gifted my two 
halves of Monster. Or maybe my blue nails
are a defect, a sign that I am special
in the wrong way. My skin can protect me
only from the outside, and my nails know
that I always cry from the inside.

I fear the blue Monster.
She lurches in my eyes and
sputters in my voice and 
jolts in my fingers.
She is here, when 
my fingernails turn blue.
She is here, for
we are friends and 
my favorite color is blue.


Written by Gabriella Troy

My sister’s hair glows crimson
in the sunlight. Her hips sway
to the beat of her meandering mind,
and her mouth curves mischievously
around the dramatic tale she has pulled 
from thin air. She is glorious, 
that sister of mine.

My sister’s eyes twinkle copper
in the moonlight. Her lips quirk
unconsciously as she whispers, “are you 
still awake?” towards the sky. She ropes
everyone into her adventures.
Her feet never stop itching to 
run, and that is why she is glorious,
that sister of mine.

My sister’s reflection flickers gray
in the murky dregs of her mug.
Her fingers tap unevenly against its
chipped handle, uncertain of the beat 
they are meant to follow. They are waiting
for a signal from above, and I want to
scream at their foolishness. They are not
supposed to lose their innate rhythm, or
their lighthearted energy, for she is glorious, 
that sister of mine.

My sister’s glasses cannot shine golden
in the unrelenting dark. Her legs have grown
longer but their joints are not sure-footed
enough to twirl. Music drowns her memory of
movement and her headphones block the  
drone of my pleas. I just wish she could see 
what I know: that she is glorious,
that sister of mine.