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Artwork by Aldwin Li, staff artist

stop—don’t say it—i see

that look on your face. you’re perturbed, aren’t

you? displeased? your eyes bore holes through my jittery foot

but i won’t apologize for dancing to music only i can

hear: your disruptive is my coping mechanism. your

abnormal is my life.

so what if i refuse to capitalize the words i should

because lowercase letters taste like citrus and chocolate

on my tongue? so what if i can’t stand the smell

of papaya or peppermint or gasoline? stop—don’t say it—don’t

walk behind me, or pat my back, or turn the volume on my earphones

to anything more than one bar; you asked me to

respect you. respect me.

yes, i order the same meal every time i come here. yes, i’m biting

the insides of my cheeks. yes, i like the scent of your hair and your

laundry. the lights are too bright. i’m playacting at existing. i’m trying

not to snap. stop—don’t say it—be calm. be polite. be

normal. but

what is normal anyway?

maybe it’s an absence of the pressure on my chest, a

lack of the tears stinging at my eyes. or is it

an ability to tell what someone is thinking without imagining

going through the same thing? can you get angry

without exploding? can you get hurt

without shutting down? don’t stop—say it—tell me what it means

to be like you. tell me what it means to be human.

you can’t, can you? you have only ever been

yourself. but i don’t mind. i, too,

have only ever been



Alina Y. Liu is a Prose and Poetry Contributor at The Incandescent Review.

Aldwin is a wannabe artist from Hong Kong about to be dumped in the deep end of his first-year English literature course. On his quest to become a writer-artist he unfortunately has yet to retreat into a mountain hermitage, perfect his craft and forget that everything exists. He has attended programs at the Interlochen Summer Arts Camp and Iowa Young Writers' Studio, but for the most part he is a self-taught dabbler. (Becoming a mountain hermit will have to wait.) He seeks to express through art and writing and help others do the same, almost as much as he has a slightly unhealthy addiction to self-deprecating dry humour. In his free time he does anything, from performance martial arts to creating fictional languages to playing jazz piano. He probably needs to drink less coffee.

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