Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Squeeze the sorrow out of my poor heart. Why haven’t you written me back yet? Are your bullfrogs really better than me? Have you fallen in love with one yet? Sorry for teasing, I just can’t believe you’ve dedicated your life to the study of glorified toads. Whatever, it’s past me. Anyway, did you get a new research assistant? You were so worried about hiring one during my visit; I didn’t realize bullfrog tracking could be so stress-inducing. Last week I asked your ex-boyfriend, Earl, if he would be your frog counter, and he told me “no way would I do that for Valentina.” Those were his words exactly. Don’t be upset, because this is a sign that you need to get over him. His hair looked like it was deep-fried and I’m pretty sure he still works at that drafty train stop spa-- the tiny one on Ridge Road-- by the green farmhouse with the peeling paint. I can't imagine who would want a massage from him.
I saw The Operatic Mushroom in concert last week. Happy’s Pizza had a raffle for tickets; I have no idea how they scored tickets or why The Operatic Mushroom was touring through Eastern Ohio. I invited my new college friend June, who claims she's been listening to them since eighth grade, however I remain a skeptic. We were thrilled to see the band, even though we got a back-row balcony view. A group of loquacious high school cowgirls sat courteously in front of us, clicking their bedazzled boots on the floor and tittering occasionally. One girl with a long ruby fringe dress and hot pink Stetson hat sucked on a cigarette with zeal. When the show started, the girls sang along so loudly that I couldn't even hear the band, so I was essentially not at an Operatic Mushroom concert. After the concert, June and I clambered onto the 11 PM bus back to Antioch College; we were in empty hysterics the whole drive back. The second I entered my dorm I fell asleep in my sweaty concert clothes, with the Operatic Mushroom's deep bass ringing through my ears all night long.
I remember saying goodbye to you at your cabin three months ago. I was grumpy because you forced me to wake up at midnight so I wouldn’t miss the early-morning train back to school. Some nonsense you said about “the importance of education” and “missing classes is a pathway to failure.” I wish I had missed the train; the ride was freezing and dreary. I wrote about the ride in my last letter but I have no proof you read it so I’ll describe it once more. I was curled up, trying to sleep, when an old hunched man asked me to get off a few hours before my stop and dance with him at the Feisty Lizard Speakeasy. It was 4 AM and I was groggy and shivering. I told him I needed to attend my Aunt Betty’s funeral that afternoon, and could not accompany him. I still feel rotten about lying. The man put his hand on my shoulder for a moment and I’ll never forget how his intensely sad blue eyes softened as he walked back to his seat. I later saw him get off anyways, and I swear he floated down the steps into the Victorian train house. I’ve never felt as empty as when he disappeared around the corner and into the smudged black city. I think about that moment on the train sometimes when I’m in bed, or walking to class, or brushing my teeth. What would have happened if I said yes? Would I have spent the night swing dancing in a senior club, drinking a Shirley temple, and holding the man’s leathery hand under the half-moon glow? I hope he is doing alright these days, and that he found someone to dance with.
If you ever read this letter, write back ASAP, and tell me about the revolutionary scientific discoveries you make. Maybe bullfrog oil glands hold the cure to cancer! I want to visit you soon, though the thought of driving eight hours makes me want to crack a mug on my skull and Mom would never let me use her car. I don’t even know if you want me to visit. Anyways, Mom claims she needs the car for “spiritual purposes.” Ever since old Angie died she’s been a bit crazy. Poor kitty. The last time I visited home, Angie’s fur still floated around the house, drifting into my eyes and making me sneeze, even after her death. Mom had started blowing glass in her spare time. We now have numerous thin vases that populate the house and have a tendency to crash to the floor if the morning train rushes by too thunderously. My favorite is a spindly short one that has a light green base and purple stripes. When the five o'clock sun beams through the vase and projects onto the back wall, it looks like the Northern Lights are in our house. One day I’ll go see an Aurora, hopefully in Fairbanks or Yellowknife, and I’ll think about Mom’s fragile vases with tears in my eyes.
I officially committed myself as an English major last month, and I hope to specialize in creative writing. Dad would have an aneurysm because he thinks I’ll be an unemployed writer. When I publish my first book and he's not in the dedication, he'll feel sorry for ever doubting me. I took an algebra test the morning after the Operatic Mushroom concert and get this; I passed with flying colors! I got a full 88 percent. You would have been so disappointed in me; an 88 is basically a death sentence to you. Whatever, you’re basically a nun, living away in your cabin, stone-cold sober and surrounded by pond water.
I should probably get going. As I write, I am melting into a human puddle, despite planting myself underneath the shadiest tree on campus. I’ll describe the scene real quick: the sun is huge and white, and you can see it even through the layer of clouds permanently stationed above Antioch. Dandelions cover every inch of grass along the south edge of campus; the hills that sprawl into the countryside are colored buttercup yellow by the flowers. Three guys, all of drastically differing heights, are throwing a frisbee with a purple Shakespeare’s face printed on its front, and a tiny stone statue of a middle finger is sitting on the sidewalk next to them. I’m assuming a fine arts kid made it, but who knows. Maybe it’s just God reminding me to give up.
You should reconsider why you’re studying bullfrog oil glands for such a long period of time. I don’t mean to guilt you but please don’t ignore my letter this time. I know you’re a real adult with scholarly passions and you need to finish your thesis, but I miss you. Your studies are important but please don’t linger in your own life for too long. College is lonely for me. I’m sorry, my heart has a tendency to overspeak, but you’ve been silent for months now. I hope that one day you write back.
Julie Larick is a seventeen-year-old writer and freshman at the College of Wooster. She is majoring in English and Spanish and edits for her school's literary magazine. Julie is a resident of Shaker Heights, Ohio and dreams of moving to Iowa City. Her writing has been recognized by the Parallax Fiction Contest and Pen Ohio. She has been published or has work forthcoming in Teen Voice Media, Kalopsia Literary Journal, Junebug Journal, and Lake Erie Ink. Julie is an alumna of Iowa Young Writers’ Studio and ArtWorks. She loves to sew with old fabric, play with her cats, and take walks.
This is Rebecca! She’s just started her first year of art school. She not only loves to make creative content through her drawings but she also loves to listen to music (from R&B to kpop), dance, read novels, binging shows and movies, learning new languages on Duolingo and hanging out with friends.