Category: Creative Nonfiction 2020


by Destiny Quiles

As I walk down the flight of stairs that separates me from the pavement of the sidewalk, I take a second to realize how funny it is that I am going down a rabbit hole–away from the outside world and into a new chaos. Once I get to the bottom of the stairs, I take my Metro Card out from my wallet and swipe through to the other side. As I walk down the next set of stairs, I am not sure which way to go. Which direction will lead me closer to the exit once I get off? Should I go left, should I go right, or stay in the middle? I have to choose, but that has always been such an unnecessarily complicated thing for me since childhood.  

I realize I am going to be waiting here for eight minutes so I can think about that later. I walk around the bag of chips whose contents have been spilled all over the ground, past the gum on the pavement which has now become like a fossil, and over to the nearest seat available: a brown bench with elbow rests that sections off to make six seats. A partially bald, elderly man with white hair sits on the furthest end. I look down at the bench to see which seat I will take. Small puddles of water that someone probably spilled fill the first seat. The one next to it seems as clean as it’s going to get, and I sit there. I look left and right, as people pass by. Some move hastily and others seem to have no clue what is going on in front of them, just what is in the palm of their hand. 

I hear click clack, click clack from both the women walking in heels and the trains passing by this stop. A suddenly loud screech from a train coming to a stop, across the platform, pierces my ears. I squint my face and my hands fly to cover my ears from the noise that is piercing through my body. A little girl walks past me: holding her stuffed animal bunny, wearing cute little boots, leggings, a puffy jacket and two curly blonde pig tails, holding her mother’s hand, crying loudly as ever. She says something as she is crying but it sounds like a foreign baby language to me. Her mother is shushing her but that isn’t helping. The mother begins to show embarrassment on her face. Her cheeks blush and her head lowers as the noise coming from her daughter becomes louder and more people begin to stare. The little girl’s mother picks her up, rocks her up and down and sways her side to side; and to everyone’s relief, the little girl begins to quiet down. When I was a little girl around her age, twenty years ago, I was not one to throw tantrums or cry much. But there was a time one day, after my mom, my grandmother, and I spent a full day together, enjoying our time in the city.  I do not remember most of that day, but I will never forget our way home. 

We sat in red and orange seats, with a window behind us so I could look outside while I listened to my mother and grandmother converse. My mom and I lived two stops away from my grandmother on the 4 train. I knew my grandmother would get off at Kingsbridge Road, my mom and I at Moshulu Parkway. Coming from Manhattan, we had a long way to go. I was having such a good time, my mom to the left of me, my grandmother to the right. I felt loved and happy that I was with the both of them. 

“Next stop, Kingsbridge Road.”  

“What?” I think, “Already?” I sit up straight. “No!” 

My grandmother asks, “Do you want to come to my house to spend the night or stay with mommy?” In one movement before I can answer, my grandmother is standing at the opening of the train doors. The doors open, and my grandmother stands up and holds out her hands. “C’mon Des, do you want to come, or do you want to stay?” Again, before I can answer, she begins to step out of the train we were all on and begins to walk away, towards the stairs. I look back to my mom and again to my grandmother. Then I kiss my mom and run out of the train towards my grandmother.

Out on the platform, I look through the window and see my mother sitting at the corner of the train as the doors close. Holding my grandmother’s hand, I reach out the other towards my mom and scream. But the train hasn’t moved yet. I let go of my grandmothers’ hand and run to the train doors. The train doors open; I run to my moms’ lap, my arms hug her neck, and I immediately stop crying. Kneeling on the seat, I look out the window and cry again and reach my hands out to my grandmother through the window as the train begins to leave. I come off my knees, snuggle against my mom’s stomach as I cry. She places her hand on my head and consoles me. Although I am sad that we all could not be together, I am happy with the decision I made to go home with my mom. As the train leaves the stop, I wipe my tears and smile, knowing I will be home. 

As this memory flows through me, I realize I hold on to it even now as an adult. I still feel the sadness and longing of the little girl I was twenty years ago. Unwilling to make a choice between the people you love: and when you make that choice, you hope that the choice you aren’t making, the one you left without, doesn’t feel unloved…  Click clack, click clack. I rouse myself and stand up from my seat.  The wind blows hard against my face as the next train rushes into the station. Suddenly, everything comes to a stop and there is a moment where everything is silent. The doors open in front of me.


Destiny Quiles is a 24-year-old, self-employed, college student. She was born and raised in the Bronx by a young, single mother. At the age of four, she lost her father, and by the age of six, she was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease. Hence, she has dedicated her life to improving the health of herself and others through her business and pursuing education. She is currently running a business as a Personal Trainer and coaching clients through their journey to grow and become the version of themselves that they strive to be. She wishes to inspire and empower individuals with her story and her practices. Her future plans include applying to Medical School to become a Physician, as well as publishing an autobiography in order to inspire and build self-empowerment in those who have experienced loss and illness.

Pretty Girl

by Nicolle Jaramillo

[trigger warning: sexual assault]


I could be a pretty girl
I’ll wear a skirt for you.

–Clairo, “Pretty Girl”


I’m 5 years old or maybe 6 already, it doesn’t matter. I’m in the first grade waiting in line, although I can’t remember why. For the first time I feel someone’s hands — someone else’s hands on me, moving around and feeling me. I turn around, furiously confused, to the kid in my class with the most atrocious bowl cut I’ve ever seen smiling at me. I know this is wrong. I know this is disrespectful, my mom told me to never let anyone touch me there–or anywhere for that matter –but still I can’t figure out why. I shriek and run up to my first-grade teacher Ms. Sullivan, who’s at the front of the line, and tell her what had happened. I remember that the boy was named Kevin, because her stern face called him over to her, after she told me not to worry and called me a “pretty girl.”


I’m 7 or so now, not much older than the first time Kevin laid his hands on me, but that’s not on my mind anymore. My mom and I are headed towards my friend Jimmy’s house; we were in the same class in kindergarten and our moms became friends through us. What I didn’t know then was that Jimmy had some kind of crush on me, and that his mother encouraged this as well. I would grow to hate this family so much over the years, for many reasons,while my parents got closer to them, until they couldn’t stand them either: but all of that comes later. Our mothers are in the living room chatting, and so were we until one of us got the idea to imitate Spongebob. Back then Spongebob was still something kids liked and wasn’t forced down our throats, as it is now for ratings. In the “Krusty Krab Training” episode, our favorite character Spongebob washes his hands continuously until they disappeared. We wanted to try this out and see if our hands would disappear if we washed them as long as Spongebob did, and for that we headed to the bathroom. After a few attempts of scrubbing our hands furiously and giggling and our mothers yelling to not waste so much soap and water, Jimmy decides to close the door.

“Nicolle, I want to show you something,” he says while tugging at his pants. Remember, I’m seven now: so I know a little more than I did when I was six, and I know that private parts are called private for a reason. I closed my eyes and yelled at him not to. After a moment of silence I open them and saw him holding “it” in his hand and looking at me with a serious face. I freak out. This is the first time I’ve ever seen someone else’s privates and I feel disgusted. I run out of the bathroom and look at my mom and his mom. I couldn’t tell them what happened. I knew he shouldn’t have done that and that it was wrong, but I didn’t know how to tell my mom. I say nothing and they assume we went on to play another game. I never end up telling my mom what happened in the bathroom and I stop thinking of Jimmy as a friend and more like a creep. That night when we leave, his mom tells me I’m such a pretty girl.


I’m now in middle school and I’ve had to withstand Jimmy’s gross passes, like hugging me from behind and grasping me so tightly; no matter how hard I tried to get out I couldn’t, while he made weird noises. His mother would laugh and talk about how “cute” we were even though we didn’t share mutual feelings. Her laughter would be heard over my screams of protests and when I acted out or tried to punch or pull my way free. I was the one who would get reprimanded for my actions. A kid in my 7th grade ELA class, who was often known for acting out and bringing attention to himself, would tell me while looking me up and down, that I’m “growing into such a nice body, pretty girl.”


Walking home from school or walking to school or on the train the neighborhood bums and drunks stare at a pre-adolescent girl with watery eyes, trying not to make eye contact with anyone. A short drunk almost my height calls me “hermosa” and blows me a kiss.


I’m now sixteen and starting my junior year in high school. Rumors start to spread about a boy in some of my classes, asking about me. I’d hear my name being whispered by the same voice but every time I’d turn around no one would say anything. The first time he talked to me, he asked if I wanted to buy cookies he was selling for his soccer team. A few days later my friend informed me that he was asking around for my snapchat.hen I got his request, I accepted to see what he had to say to me. After his attempt at small talk, he tells me I’m a pretty girl, and that he’s been asking around about me because he’s been too shy to talk to me. For the first time I believe that I am a pretty girl.

We keep talking for several weeks and become friends, until he abruptly kissed me while walking me home from the mall. I still remember the date, November 3rd. For the first time my feelings reciprocated those of another who liked me. Shortly after that we start dating and he is more comfortable and confident with me. He shares his misogynistic views on how women “can’t” drive and how men are smarter than women. I am no longer a pretty girl but rather “his” girl. He starts to talk to me about sex and I tell him I’ve always felt uncomfortable talking about it. He says he respects that. He doesn’t. He starts to bring up sex in everything conversation, so much so that I feel brainwashed into giving in to him.

The day that it happens I am late to his house from trying to avoid running into my mom on the streets, after she drops me off at the bus stop. He is restless; cmon babe hurry up I just wanna be inside you, be your first, he messages me. When I finally get to his apartment, I get a warm welcome from his dog Micky, who seems to be the only one who cares about my feelings. Not even halfway into the apartment, he starts trying to take off my clothes. Eventually what happens happens: because I think I am ready for it, I think he really loves me, I think we are in love, I think I am a pretty girl. I later come to blame myself for the hurt, because it was me who let him inside me. It starts to hurt like nothing else I’ve ever felt down there or anywhere else. I let out an agonizing scream and tell him to stop; I am not aroused, I am definitely in pain.

“It’s gonna hurt babe, it’s gonna hurt the first time,” he keeps repeating while pushing further as I keep screaming in pain for him to stop.

I think about the way I was raised, how I grew up being a good kid most of time, always calm and quiet and dependent on God. Please God please forgive me for this, don’t punish me, I think while turning my head to the side. It starts to hurt so bad my arms move by themselves to try to push him off, like a reflex.

“Stop trying to push me,” he says.

When it is over he tells me I am bleeding and gives me a paper towel. We walk to school like nothing happens and we miss AP English.

“That was terrible,” he says to me about it. Suddenly I am not a pretty girl anymore; I am not even “his” girl. I am terrible. We go on like nothing happened for the rest of the day. I get home and lay on my bed and turn on my music. I hear Lana Del Rey ask me: “is innocence lost?” And I don’t know if it is, or if it already has been.


I haven’t felt like a pretty girl in a long time; so long that I can’t remember when I haven’t been thinking about how big my nose looks, or whose makeup looks better than mine. When I don’t put on makeup to go out, the whole world makes a big deal about it. My grandma motions to me to at least put on some lipstick by running her finger around her lips. My mother scolds me for going out on family days looking like death for not “fixing” myself.

“You’re going out like that?” my aunt asks me when I’m headed out the door bare-faced.

“Asi te ves bonita,” my grandmother says with a smile, when she catches me putting on makeup, on the days that I feel like trying.

I can’t look at myself without staring into my eyes for a while. I don’t know what these experiences mean in terms of how I am perceived as an actual person, but I do know that to everyone else I’m only a pretty girl for a while. I’m only pretty when I get male attention, I’m only pretty when I let things slide, I’m only pretty when I wear somewhat revealing clothing, I’m only pretty when I have something to offer, I’m only pretty when I fix my face with makeup. I’ve been called a pretty girl so many times for different things; but I truly do not know what it feels like to be a pretty girl or to be called one, without the feeling of disgust running through me.


Nicolle Jaramillo is a second-year student at LaGuardia Community College who will be transferring to Hunter College in Fall 2020. She is currently studying Childhood Education with a concentration in English. As a childhood education major with a concentration in English, she has trained to perform highly in different fields such as journalism, creative non-fiction writing, and creating lesson plans.

Born and raised in New York City, she is of Peruvian descent. She grew up absorbing the different cultures around Queens. Her hobbies include guitar playing, writing poetry, and knitting. Authors and poets such as Lang Leav, Emily Dickinson, and Oscar Wilde inspire her to keep pursuing poetry as well as trying different genres of writing.

From 13 to 30

I don’t quite remember when I heard them for the first time: if it was on the radio, or if it was some recorded concert playing on TV. But I do remember tanning on the beach that summer by a shallow river in my hometown in Siberia and listening to them on my Walkman cassette player. It was kind of chilly outside, around low 70’s, but I did not care. I had just somehow gotten the new album of my favorite band and I was sinking into the low vibrations of the lead singer’s voice. Playing the song I liked most over and over and over… trying to understand the meaning of the words “piet drugih devchonok sok, poet im pesni” (he’s drinking juice of other girls and singing to them). I was 13. Of course the band had a male singer. Of course he was hot. And of course he ended up being my childhood crush. But Mumiy Troll was way more for me than a frivolous teenage obsession. My pure devoted love for them has lasted for 17 years.

The first show I went to was a mess: thousands of people, and me and my friend in the middle of the crowd. Jumping, yelling every song out loud, like our lives depended on it. I was carried away from my friend in the fanatic madness. I couldn’t move; there was just no room to. There was no separation between bodies; we were so jammed into each other, that when the wave of movement came, I was just carried along with it. All the same songs, loved by so many people: beat and rhythm and Iliya’s touching voice. I ended up breaking a heel on my boots at that show. In Russia we wear heels just about everywhere.

It took me some time to collect myself back together afterwards. My friend was nowhere to be found and I decided to wait for people to clear out, after the lights went back on. There were maybe just a few hundred or so of us left at the venue. And there he was again: my crush, on the stage of the now well-lit venue, with the stage lights and projectors off, wearing a white, half-buttoned shirt with the sleeves rolled up, singing my favorite song “Delfini” (Dolphins). No band. No drums. Just acoustic guitar and his mesmerizing low voice almost whispering, “Tonesh, tonesh, ne potonesh, ti slomaeshsya odnazhdi.” (Drowning, drowning, never really drowning, one day you will break apart). I have been waiting for that one song all night. Up until this moment, I still have no idea what made him come back on stage again. But to the 17 year old fan seeing my idol that close was like a miracle.

I don’t think being a true fan means obsessing over something 24/7. Time flew by, I was getting older, and of course my music tastes didn’t stop at one band. Yet somehow Mumiy Troll always felt precious to my heart. They were a part of me, carrying so many of my stories: even miles and oceans away from home, the warm memories of familiar tunes kept me smiling through stormy days.

It must have been my second year in the US; I was about to turn 21, when I found out MT would be playing at the Webster Hall. Here in New York, Russian bands do not rock stadiums, but their shows do get sold out in smaller venues. That night I was in the front row, holding on to the gate separating me from the stage. First ones to get there and the last ones to leave, with no bathroom breaks: we were committed to be at the front.

“MU-MIY-TROOL! MU-MIY-TROOL!” Punga showed up on stage and ran to take his seat at the drum set. Zhenya Sdvig walked towards his bass, waving to the excited crowd. Then Yura came along. A new member of the band, not sure what his name was, awkwardly trotted on stage. “MU-MIY-TROLL! MU-MIY-TROLL!” We kept on, impatiently loud and cheerful. After testing our enthusiasm enough, Iliya finally danced his way on to the stage, with an ear-to-ear smile and sparkling eyes. It was like I was back into my childhood again, unwrapping the most desired Christmas present. I still remembered the words to every song and was singing at the top of my lungs. But this time I wasn’t lost in the crowd, carried away by its motions. This time I was holding on strongly to the cold metal, fighting for my spot by the stage. The crowds are merciless –you give up your spot, you lose it — and so they were pushing hard into my back, leaning their weight against me.

One of the reasons I love seeing Mumiy Troll live is because part of their shows is interacting with the crowd. Even though it is a set number and order of songs, the energy is often created by how motivated the band is to play and how well they support the dialogue with the crowd. The signature part of that communication for Mumiy Troll is giving one of the secondary mics to the public for a female part in “Medveditsa” (Great Bear). Well: guess who was the lucky girl that night? As the song began and the crowd realized it was “Medvedica,” Iliya handed the mic right to me. Of course my first reaction was to freeze, but that didn’t last long, and as the song continued I started singing, “V slezah parnishka, emy sovrala ya nemnozhko” (The boy is crying; I lied to him a little). My friends joined me shortly after the first two lines, but our group had the mic for the whole song and got a taste of live karaoke with Mumiy Troll. That experience was so surreal. I could not contain my happiness; that night I conquered the World and was crowned The Queen.

Seventeen years is a long time to be loyal to one band. The meaning of that same lyric to “Devochka” (The Girl) that I could not figure out when I was 13 has changed multiple times. Now when I go to their shows I simply observe the scene from the back of the venue, staying away from crowds; I have become more mature, but I am still a little crazy about Mumiy Troll. Every time they come to NYC I am there as a true supportive fan, geared up with perfect knowledge of the lyrics to most of their songs.

Mumiy Troll and I have been through a lot – from my Walkman cassette player on the beach in Siberia, to singing along with my childhood crush on the island of Manhattan. From the first love and tears, to relationships, and break-ups, and new relationships. From listening to one song on repeat to chasing after the lead singer to get a picture with him. From 13 to now 30. Throughout my life one thing has stayed constant: the warm velvet voice of Mumiy Troll brings me a feeling of belonging — and reminds me where I am from, when I feel lost.


Diana Athena started to develop an interest in writing as a teenager, writing poems and short stories. After moving to New York from Russia when she was 19 years old, Diana has rediscovered her passion for using the art of words to express herself and has started exploring writing in English. After performing one of her poems as her monologue in an acting class and receiving positive feedback from her acting coach, Diana knew that writing was her calling. Diana is currently working on getting her AA in creative writing at LaGuardia Community College.