Category: 2023 Edition

Some Questions for Alexandra Rivera

What inspired you to write “A Promise Goes Both Ways”?

I wrote “A Promise Goes Both Ways” for my introduction to creative writing course after being prompted to create a flash fiction piece. “A Promise Goes Both Ways” was inspired by the numerous post-apocalyptic stories that exist in the media. I love seeing supernatural elements in media, but although zombies (currently) do not exist and therefore there are no facts/laws to them, I hate seeing interpretations of zombies done the exact same way every time. When watching shows and playing video games that feature zombies, I always wonder about the people who are turned into creatures and if there’s any sentience after they turn. I wanted to explore that in my piece while also writing a story about love and morality.

What was your writing process like for this piece?

I only had a few days to write this piece for my class, and I spent most of it debating on how the story should even go. I originally wanted to write a simple story that comes off as an excerpt from a much larger piece with some foreshadowing of a bad ending for the two lovers, never actually confirming their fate and leaving it to interpretation. Also, I was going to make our narrator, Hannah, the survivor of the two, meaning she would betray Sam. Ultimately, I gravitate towards creating pieces with sad endings (which I didn’t expect since I hate reading stories with sad endings), and I chose to write the version of my story that I knew would be the most gut-wrenching and impactful.

Read Alexandra’s flash fiction, “A Promise Goes Both Ways.”


Some Questions for Victoria Segarra

What inspired you to write “Ode to a Strange Planet”?

I actually wrote “Ode To A Strange Planet” as an assignment for a creative writing course I took last year at LaGuardia. We had to write an ode and I decided to write an ode to my body. I had always had a very difficult relationship with my body and lacked a lot of confidence, but about two years ago I began my self-love journey. This poem is almost an apology to myself for not recognizing my beauty after all this time.

What was your writing process like for this piece?

I wanted to write an ode to something that I didn’t always think was beautiful. The idea to write about my body came from a recent boost in self confidence that I got once classes were in-person again. I had started dressing nicer and actually felt beautiful for the first time in my entire life. I thought of nature and how nature has this rugged and raw beauty about it. It’s not perfect and it’s not symmetrical but it’s still gorgeous. I decided to talk about my body as if it were a planet with its own natural wonders like Earth because my body is a natural wonder in and of itself. All of our bodies are natural wonders.

Read Victoria’s poem “Ode to a Strange Planet.”


Some Questions for Kaylin Rivera

What inspired you to write “Era Death”?

“Era Death” was something that I randomly thought of. We’ve seen the idea of writing letters to your child self and letting them know you’ve succeeded or are cooler now, etc. However I feel like during my teen years I had different ‘eras’ of myself. And during those moments I thought I was the evolved version of myself. I kept trying to bury those past versions of myself on top of a new self. I realized that I can’t really ignore the past versions of myself. I can recognize them, ‘kill’ their existence and learn from them to continue evolving. The whole point of Era Death was to face the not so appealing parts of myself so I can make room for the new me every time I evolve.

What was your writing process like for this piece?

My writing process was a bit underwhelming. I literally just wrote! My brain felt like a wet sponge dripping with ideas and as I wrote, my brain sponge dried out and suddenly Era Death was there. I will say as I wrote I had to think of my past memories and that was hard from time to time, but I’m glad I reflected because I learned a lot about myself during the process.

Read Kaylin’s piece “Era Death.” 



by Rianna Cruz

The colors of summer are a beautiful sight
They make so many things look better in the light,
And though summer is a short flight,
It can tend to feel like the time of your life:
From the soft summer breeze kissing your hands,
To my white painted toes feeling the sand,
Even the way I want to hold your hand;
Summer is sparks flying in the skies painted blue,
And even when the sky needs to cry,
It tends to not change the mood
Because the sun still comes out to take a dive
And gives us the summer – we thrive;
It’s full of beauty, hope, and happiness;
From the smiles of children when they see the ice cream man,
The way flowers blossom more into color,
Reflecting yellow, orange – a rainbow,
A rainbow of sunshine around us all;
Tender love and fulfillment,
Filled with the stickiness of ice cream and sweetness;
Summer reminds you to smile through the cold times,
Cause sometimes it’s hard to make the weather rhyme.
As long as we have family and each other,
It’s always going to feel like summer.

Rianna Cruz is currently a student at LaGuardia who will be graduating in 2023. Her love for writing has inspired her to keep going not only in school, but also in life. She will be the first to graduate college from her family and will continue the legacy of being the poem writer in her family and doing what she loves the most.

Image credit: “Coney Island,” simplethrill. Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Loving a Soldier

by Franchesca Cuba

Again, in my window
Waiting for his return

Engrossed in my pain, the moon takes the floor
Yes, the moon
She tells me that he will return
Let me prepare a place and go to meet him
I still could not believe that the moon was talking to me
But yes, the moon
My amazement increases when the stars intervene singing a love song
I wipe my tears and run to the mirror reflecting my radiant face
Suddenly the illusion enters through my window
Yes, the illusion
She brings with her a hope green dress and she tells me again, he will return
He comes; yes, he comes,
The boisterous rain accompanies it and between drop and drop it wets my whole body
Gardenias, sandalwood and roses permeate all my skin
The seagulls of love insist on combing my hair
Yes, the seagulls
My heart beats so fast
Passion paints my lips crimson red
Yes, passion
I go out excited to meet him
The wind blows through my hair
Between rose and rose
I run to meet him and suddenly the sea screams my name
Stops me and adorns my neck
A white and brilliant pearl necklace
In the middle of my joy, I turn around and tell him, I will live with my love by the sea
I continue on my way to see my beloved.
Yes, he returned
Still dressed in uniform and with a firm step, he approaches
I stop and see his face,
He looks loving, tender and dreamy, but even his gaze reflects pain and the ravages of war
He takes me in his arms and my heart surrenders
It is my lover and partner who returned
Suddenly a noise breaks the silence.

Everything is cloudy around me
Awake and in my window, the moon still, pale and without speaking
I can’t escape this reality
I run to the mirror and there lies white hair and wrinkled skin
I only look at an old woman still in love
waiting for a soldier who is her love, who has already died
because an absurd war took him away.


Franchesca served as co-editor in chief for The Lit. She is a student at LaGuardia College. She is a full-time journalism major. She is from Perú and has lived in New York for three years. Currently, she is a math tutor in SGA Tutoring Lab at LaGuardia. She is a lover of poetry, literature and math. She aspires to continue her education after LaGuardia and major in Journalism and dedicate herself to journalism, which she is passionate about. Her hobbies include learning to play the violin, reading, listening to music and spending time with her family.

Image Credit: “Locas noches veraniegas de luna llena (I),” Miquel González Page. Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Era Death

to all the versions of myself that I’ve killed

by Kaylin Rivera

[CW // sexual assault]

Circa 15, 16.


Pressured by your so-called friends around you to give away the one thing that you were told was sacred. Was it worth it? An older man who sure as hell should not have been talking to someone your age. You wanted to get it over with, to not be pestered by the incessant voices. You told yourself it did not matter, it was not as special as it was regarded. You wanted to get rid of it, to tear through the sanctity of yourself, but the feeling during and after… a thick alloy, coating your skin, reaching around trying to absorb you whole. Afterward, proud of your torn stockings and soreness between your legs. Bragging rights of doing it on a roof in the autumn weather with someone who wanted to consume your essence yet they chose not to tell their parents about you despite being together for almost two years.

Good enough for the iciness of their roof, but not enough for the warmth of their home.

Showered you with gifts and romance… shadowed by the suffocation of ownership.

You remember not wanting to fall behind, but now that you reflect… you were certainly not falling behind with the rest of the people your age, just within that vicious cesspool you clung to for validation. Attention… weighing your body down, putting a heavy feeling in the pit of your stomach and needles in your chest. You were told to be a leader growing up, to not be a follower, but did you listen? No.

Ugly, ugly, ugly emotions clouded judgment, despite having the awareness to know this was not what you wanted.

Circa 16, 17.


The previous part of you died; you did not recognize who you once were. A new hair color for every new era, right? Wrong. You thought choosing a new color to don around your crown would be another part of you, that you could wash away the pain and the memories with overprocessed bleach and dead ends.

Yet another one, also older than you. It’s because you’re super mature for your age right? You let him say words to you that you would never let a stranger utter. So why did you let him taint your aura? Day in and day out you ingested the verbal abuse, telling yourself it was banter, it was jokes, and it did not bother you.

Words swathed with poison stacked upon each other like plates piled atop one another with the smaller ones on the bottom and the larger ones on top. Even his parents saw how he treated you and yet day in and day out you slept on his bed with a smile on your face. You took his remarks and his flesh into your mouth without thought. You and he desired entirely different things and you deluded yourself into believing that it would be okay. You and I both knew that it would not last. He was acceptable for that era.

Acceptable for the masochist in you.

Remember that one time when you told him that you could turn it all off? That no matter how many times he positioned himself inside you, you would not flinch, would not feel a goddamn thing other than disgust? He teared up that night and you smiled inside. For the first in a long time, you felt something.

Acceptable for the sadist in you.

Remember when you cut your hair and he uttered ‘lesbian’ immediately after? The smile dropped from your face and you yearned for the lost locks falling past your shoulders.

It was okay though.

You obtained the sweetest taste of secret revenge and ‘till this day the only person that needed to know was you and her. You brought her around him, kissing her and sliding your flesh against hers while heading to his place right after in a drug-induced stupor. It was the only way you could press your lips against his snake-like tongue. It was the only way you could endure his presence, his voice, him. Thinking about her while being with him made it bearable—almost. Did you ever think about her feelings? You were so wrapped up in your pain that you never thought about how she would feel, yet you thought it was fine as she had never been with anyone else but you.

The arrangement was mutual, right?

What you did not recognize was the toxicity of him rubbing off. You harbored his essence like a devil on both shoulders. She shared something sacred with you and you viciously seized it without taking into account her feelings, her wants, her desires. You did the same thing in turn that was done to you. Did you deem yourself worthy of her or above her?

You do not have to answer that… we know the result of it.

We were so terrified of being alone that we stood together, telling each other that we loved each other despite deeply hating each other under all that desperation. You overshadowed her, let her put you on her pedestal. You devoured her just as others have consumed you and were surprised when she clawed her way out on her own. You liked to control her, to have her worship you like a false god. You say that it was her fault for idolizing you, but you knew better. She may have only been younger than you by a year, but she was mentally and emotionally underdeveloped. She looked to you for guidance and you took advantage of that just as others have done to you.

You sucked the soul out of each other and barely remembered anything.


Circa 15-19


You do not want to talk about him. But you have to. Distance was always a component of him and you. You could only get so close being miles away. The fucked up part is the foolishness he and you had. You convinced yourself you would see each other one day, be in each other’s arms whilst ignoring the distance that had nothing to do with where you lived. You loved the idea of him and wove him in your life. He was the in-between of it all, and you thought that was okay because it was not like he was here in person. How much harm could it really be? You hurt and tore each other apart with your dreams, the dreams that never quite aligned with each other. You repeatedly called each other the right person at the wrong time, but how many more wrong times were there going to be? But that is okay. You did the hardest thing, which was letting each other go despite having so much love for each other’s souls.

If only he was a woman, then maybe it would not have ended as it did, right? Perhaps the thought of being with him physically terrified you so much that you lied to yourself once the love for him was blown out, like a battery forgotten in the back of a Wii remote.

Circa 20-22


Solitary confinement.

Romantically, emotionally, physically.

You killed those past versions of yourself, reached into yourself and yanked them out one by one. You have been broken and in turn broken others without realizing until it’s too late. But that is okay because you are a work in progress. You’re learning yourself, knowing who you are.

This time you’ve planted a new seed, with compost and everything, taking the time to cultivate this newer version of yourself with the scraps of your past self. Continuously under construction because with every era that passes, you kill that past version of yourself to create space for something new. Never feel as if your life should end, only the era you’re living in.

the version of me who I have not killed yet

Read our questions for Kaylin Rivera.

Kay Rivera (they/she) is a queer writer currently studying at Queens College who graduated from LaGuardia Community College. They have a special interest in writing fantasy works in order to provide the representation they were looking for as a reader. They’ve been writing since their early adolescence and would like to pursue a career in writing and seek to inspire others to become writers.

Image credit: “Seedling,” Kevin Doncaster. Flickr CC BY 2.0.

Stand-in image

A Promise Goes Both Ways

by Alexandra Rivera

“Hey, bean…? If I ever become one of those things, I want you to put a bullet in my head.”

I was still maintaining my faith in societal restoration and keeping track of the days since the outbreak (it was day 59) when my partner, Sam, uttered those words. We were sitting at the top of a rickety, wooden watchtower on the west end of this abandoned gated community we found and inhabited a while back. It was nighttime, and the sky was illuminated with dozens of stars. Just like every clear night, I was staring at the dark blue sky, searching for constellations while she kept watch for walkers. It has become one of my favorite traditions of ours, since the others aren’t so wholesome (lots of killing and blood). Besides, the sky’s the one thing that has yet to decay in a zombie-infested world. I looked up from what I could’ve sworn was the Big Dipper to where Sam was looking.

It was a walker. It looked just as all walkers do – brainless. A husk, even, of a previous son, friend, or father. She kept her attention on the aimless walker outside the community gates, not allowing a single movement of theirs to go unseen. If a walker was in our proximity, there was no messing around with Sam. She may not have been a survivalist before the outbreak, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she read a How To Survive a Zombie Apocalypse book or watched a ton of The Walking Dead.

Her medium-length, dirty blonde hair was tied back in its signature short ponytail as a safety precaution. She wanted to shave it off entirely, but I convinced her not to. I envied her hair length and texture since I was forced to cut mine after it got seriously matted. When I showed Sam my new hairdo, I told her I looked like a bean now; she chuckled and said I was beautiful and I was her bean (hence the nickname). She wore an oversized, plain white t-shirt tucked into a pair of gray joggers we found at one of the abandoned communities we looted. I had on a lavender shirt that Sam thought complimented my deep skin tone well. Her words and troubled expression made me tuck a loose strand of hair behind her ear and offer her a warm smile when she turned to me.

“Listen, Miss ‘Captain of the Basketball Team.’ Those walkers could never catch up to you even if they wanted to. Me, however, I may run out of breath-”

“I’m being serious, Hannah. I need you to tell me that you will do that for me.”

My eyes widened– she doesn’t ever refer to me by my full name. She looked stern as she took my hands in hers and squeezed it.

“I need you to promise me that you won’t let me become one of them. That you won’t let my body be reduced to those things outside. I know you, I know you won’t want to do it if I end up getting bit, which is why I need you to promise.”

I paused, collecting my thoughts. She was right – I would never want to kill her, even if she turned into a flesh-eating monster. I mean, if she were a walker, I would probably beg her to bite me too. She stared at me with desperate, pleading eyes that said just agree to it. I could tell how much this meant to her, a simple promise. Even if I couldn’t uphold it, with the hopes of seeing her smile for the first time that night, I took a breath and–

“You know that a promise goes both ways with me right, Sam? If I agree to kill you before you turn, I expect the same from you.”

Her eyes gleamed in the starlight, but her expression turned somber. “If that’s what you want…” She pursed her lips and broke eye contact. It seemed she was considering our version of exchanging vows to each other, since I doubted we’d have a post-apocalyptic wedding. It’s not like she wanted a wedding anyways; Sam thought marriage was a social construct. She didn’t have even parents to walk her down the aisle before the world went to shit. But I always saw weddings as a beautiful tradition. Plus, it’s a fancy event where I would be guaranteed at least 4 hours of my girlfriend in a dress.

As if she could tell my brain was going on another tangent, she nudged my shoulder with hers and giggled. “Hey, what’s this about you running out of breath? You used to be in choir, Bean. I remember you singing that Bruno Mars song in the Spring concert – how did that go again? Was it –”

“Sam, no.” I groaned, not wanting to relive the cringy memory. She sang “Grenade” awfully. Even joking, she did not sing too loud, to avoid alerting walkers. I could tell she wanted to lighten the mood again, and I pretended that her attempt was adequate, but the pit in my stomach stayed until I fell into a deep slumber, nestled into her chest.

I don’t know why Samantha was convinced that walkers were lifeless creatures. I don’t know why I was either. My days consist of being trapped– mentally and physically. She keeps me in a room reminiscent of a jail cell, keeps me in a body that is no longer mine. As my body groans for human skin, I yearn for someone to put a bullet in my head. She comes to visit me every night, whispering sweet nothings from a distance, as she knows I will bite her if she gets too close.

One somber night, on what felt like two years since the outbreak occurred, she looked into my dull, dead, ugly eyes and insisted, “Do not worry, Bean. I will cure you of this illness. I promise.”

If I could speak, I would’ve told her that a promise goes both ways.

Read our Questions for Alexandra Rivera.

Born and raised in Queens, New York, Alexandra Rivera is a student and employee at LaGuardia Community College studying Digital Media. She is developing her filmmaking and graphic designing skills in hopes of becoming a content creator. Representing marginalized people is a mandatory aspect of any piece of content Alexandra seeks to put out in her future.

Image credit: “Hamilton Day 1,” Sean Hurley. Flickr CC BY 2.0.

Some Questions for Robbie Atienza

What was your writing process like for this piece?

In my creative writing course last semester, I was tasked with writing a flash fiction piece. I took that opportunity to write a horror story because I had never written one before and thought it would be fun. I started out with an idea that I thought was scary and paranoia-inducing: “What if your house was broken into but nothing was taken?”

I went through a bunch of iterations before landing on my final story. Initially, I was going to have the narrator discover that someone had buried a body inside her house but I kept coming up with questions that poked holes in that idea: Why would someone go through the trouble of burying a body in someone’s home? Isn’t that unnecessarily risky and inconvenient? Why not just bury it in the woods or something? The more I thought about that idea, the less I liked it. I then played around with the idea of a Stranger Things-like portal hidden in the basement and someone breaking into the home to access it. I didn’t care for that idea either. I later came across a picture of an internet urban legend called “The Hat Man,” a spooky, shadowy figure with a brimmed hat. I thought the concept was interesting and retooled it to become the monster of my story.

With Stephen King being one of your inspirations, were there any techniques of his that were used in this piece? Did you read or watch any other horror pieces to gain inspiration for this piece?

I’m a huge Stephen King fan and what stands out to me in his writing is his word choice. For all genres, but for horror especially, using precise, descriptive language to create imagery in the reader’s mind is very important if you want your work to be effective. Pacing is also important for horror. If things happen too slowly, the reader will get bored. You don’t want things to happen too quickly, either, because the reader will just get desensitized to the parts that are supposed to scare them. Varying the structure and lengths of your sentences will help with pacing too. When you write horror, it’s critical to build up tension and then release it at just the right moment.

Beyond Stephen King, I also took inspiration from the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I think that story does an excellent job of putting you in the narrator’s shoes as she questions her own sanity and slowly descends into madness. I also love the claustrophobic and oppressive atmosphere that story has and tried my best to emulate it in my own story.

Read Robbie’s short story “Mine.”


Chocolate Bar in the Summer

by Joel Pazmiño Rodriguez

            The chants of the crowd roar in rhythm, and the drum pounds through the speakers. He nods at the owner who’s biting his pen at the counter, but he doesn’t respond. There’s a cup final this weekend in Spain, and fútbol fever runs hot in the only deli left on the block.

            “Hello, I made an order para recojer,” he tip toes over the counter to say. “A bacon, egg, and cheese on a plain bagel.”

            “Ah, si. Ahorita lo hacemos,” the deli chef says. “Six mini.”

            He turns on his heel to look behind the glass, a sight he’s already familiar with, yet takes inventory and imagines what the desserts and bread taste like. The ones with jelly filling aren’t his favorite. But the ones with chocolate are the ones to his heart. The American chocolate bars are sweet, but they have no story for him. A Hershey bar can mean Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, but to him it’s Halloween and a dental appointment. The little, quarter-sized ones, that used to cost him 25 cents, are the ones that helped him gain the bad weight. In hindsight, they also helped him change it into good weight at the gym. His hair nearly touches his hulking shoulders, and his t-shirt is tight on his arms.

            The bell above the door rings, and two sets of footsteps scurry up to the counter. “Excuse me, how much are these?” A voice that squeaks like rusty hinges in need of WD-40 asks, pointing at a chocolate bar in blue wrapping. When was the last time he had one? Years ago now, definitely. The Jet chocolate bar was one of those foods that he didn’t eat. They’re delicious, but one leads to five, and the crash from a sugar rush wasn’t cute anymore, neither was it healthy. But they were so good. When he had them in the winter they would crack, melt on your tongue in the summer, the thick milky molasses-like texture slithering over and under your tongue.

            “Cheese?” The deli chef’s eyes look through the head-sized gap between the bin of bagels and bakery desserts, while his head faces the TV. The commentators chatter loudly and have side conversations about the players, while the deli owner curses at them.

            “Cheddar por fa,” he says, still in the memory of chocolate in the summer.

            That one summer especially, sitting at the front of his mind, he stayed cool with several Jet chocolate bars. At the age of twelve, he was outside with neighborhood friends from noon to moonrise. That’s where he’d get the Jet chocolate bars from. Jose, the youngest one would hook it up: his family was wealthy and owned a restaurant-bakery and carniceria. But only when it was the two of them. They played GTA in Jose’s bedroom, SKATE, or Halo. And his mother was beautifully sexy, her alluring voice spoke charms, and her sleek Barbie figure turned heads. His aunt, a near carbon-copy, was younger, and less modest. Another friend from the group, Santiago, shared with all of them except Jose, that Santiago saw her standing naked in her room, in front of her mirror, rubbing oil over her breasts: salivating at the sight of her plump ass jiggle. She left with the family when the patriarch bought a business in Nevada. The restaurant couldn’t compete with the birth of establishments on the block. Jose would finish high school in the desert, only to come back as a stranger.

            “¿Quiere mayonessa y ketchu?”

            He shakes his head, and the deli chef turns back, a phone call, another order.

            As much as he enjoyed the perks of Jose offering free food, he rarely set foot in the establishments. He’d go in when his mom asked him to buy some meat, or a coffee with whole wheat bread at the restaurant-bakery. They were always filled with talkative people, ones willing to speak to anyone. But that was a lot for him, especially at that age, and having that trouble with socializing even surprised him considering the friends he had. A rag-tag group of muchachos traviesos, banditos, friends, in puffy snow pants, sweats, or jeans, hoodies, parkas, sneakers, scarves, or Gears of War, rock-steady, boots. They used a trash bin as a sled, and a friend’s driveway as their mountain.When Jose invited them for hot-chocolate on a slow mid-winter day, he politely declined, only thinking of the cute waitresses that spoke so eloquently, or the potential for him to get roasted. When Jose looked a little sad at his rejection, and he felt bad, the oldest, Alvaro, saved everyone from the feeling by saying, “Burger King Breakfast tomorrow?”

            He turns to face the TV with the deli owner and nods at it. “¿Como van?” He feels the warmth from the lights of the cold cuts and plays with a Jet chocolate bar. His fingers twirl it like a baton, and he slides his thumb along the brand, the spines, the sweetness.

            In a brief commentary of the game, the deli owner explains the final to him, as if he knows nothing of fútbol. The owner loved this team since childhood, when his father and uncle wore matching jerseys and drank coffee and beer and had conchas, buñuelos, chicharrón, and empanadas. They’d stay in all day to watch their team play and the rest of the games of that weekend morning. He’d sit with them for years, until his uncle got sick and moved to Colombia, his uncle who wasn’t really blood but an old friend turned family. “They just learned how to video call each other.” The owner smiles.

            From a counter attack, the commentators rile up the owner, making him stand up. “Ahi van,” he slaps the counter and his pen jumps.

            “La orden,” the chef yells and watches over the owner’s shoulder with his mouth hanging.

            He stares and smiles at their focus, their passion, opens his sandwich, leans against the counter, and watches the game with them, with a chocolate bar in the summer.

Joel Pazmiño Rodriguez is an Ecuadorian-American English major at LaGuardia Community College. He was born and raised in Queens and is passionate about books and movies. He takes inspiration from his upbringing and adventures he goes on. He hopes to publish a novel or collection of stories one day.

Image provided by author: “Books of Spring ’23”

The Little Differences

by Raisa Zannat

On a bright winter morning, I waited inside an army jeep parked outside of a red guesthouse in Sajek Valley, a little valley located in the mountainous southern part of Bangladesh. My uncle waited impatiently in the driver’s seat for my cousins to come down, cursing under his breath every now and then. He was a very punctual man. I wonder where he learned it from: was it his years of experience in the Army or did he inherit it from his strict father who always made him wake up at the crack of dawn? My uncle had been waiting for ten minutes, but my cousins had yet to come down.

The day before my uncle and I hiked a nearby mountain trail — a five-hour-long hike ending with lunch at a tribal village. I was excited about the hike but felt terrified at the same time. Being raised in a city, I was not accustomed to mountain air, nor was I used to hiking for five hours straight. My uncle often called me “Farm Chicken,” because according to him, I was raised like one. Always protected, fed, and kept away from the wild. That day, he would drive this “farm chicken” to the airport. I had a flight to catch. A thirty-minute flight to the city and fourteen-hour flight to New York later that week.

I had taken many trips with my uncle, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Bangladesh Army. I spent most of my summer vacations in cantonments in whichever part of the country he was stationed. The late-night swimming lessons and the ice creams after the evening hike were my favorite part of summer. Every evening when we went out to run, I remember the marching soldiers would always stop to acknowledge my uncle and would not move until he gave the sign. This would fill me with a great sense of pride.

Every child needs a hero. Someone they can look up to, someone they can boast about. My uncle was that hero for me. And not only for me, but for many other people. This one time, I saw him help a sergeant with his exam. My uncle tutored the man every day after work for a month or so. The day the sergeant passed his test and became sergeant major, he showed up at our door first thing in the morning: bright-eyed, full of hope, and with a smile up to his ears. He hugged my uncle, and I could see tears form in the corner of his eyes. After the sergeant who was now a sergeant major left our premises, my uncle turned to me and said, “It’s the little difference that you make in this world.” Back then I didn’t know what he meant. I was just a sixth grader who was worried about school and her friends. I was naive and too distracted to understand the value of this phrase.

It was half past nine when we started to drive to the airport. My uncle looked straight ahead. The roads were curvy, sometimes slanted. He seemed to know them. My cousins chirped away in the back of the jeep with my bags on their laps. While driving by a farmers’ market, a local ran towards our vehicle with two pumpkins in his hand. My uncle halted the jeep and assured the guy that on his way back from the airport he would buy those pumpkins. The guy seemed satisfied. While fixing the rear-view mirror, my uncle said to me — “You could have stayed a couple of more days here. The fresh air would have done you good. What is it about Dhaka? Only traffic and pollution. One can’t even breathe there.” Sitting in the back seat I just hummed in response. I wondered if he forgot that I wouldn’t be in Dhaka for long. I was leaving for New York in a week and things were not going to be the same. During this one month that I spent with him, he didn’t mention once how he felt about me moving away. I didn’t bring it up either. Whenever one of my cousins would bring it up, he would just say “One doesn’t have to leave their own country to make a better life, anyone can make a good life out of whatever they have.”

We reached the airport in time. My cousins helped me with the bags. We waited at the lounge and had our breakfast. My uncle decided to pick plain toast and butter. I started thinking about all the breakfasts we had together. He loved the way I made tea for him. Two spoons full of black tea boiled to perfection in milk, with a spoonful of sugar. He used to brag to others that I knew the perfect way to make milk tea. I didn’t know if I would be able to make any more tea for him. I didn’t know when I would see him again.

It was a perfect morning — bright, sunny, and a bit cold. I thought to myself — if I wasn’t flying back; if I was still in the little valley, I would have probably taken a walk. A walk around the park, or the lake where I fished with my uncle many times, or strolled around the garden that had hibiscus flowers in it. The day would be very different. I would have gotten myself a little tanner or I would have gone home and had that pumpkin from the farmer’s market that my uncle bought. My grandmother would have cooked it sweet and spicy, slightly caramelized, sauteed in oil, and seasoned to perfection. With a side of warm white rice.

I looked up at my uncle. He didn’t have his uniform on today. He was in his civil wear: a plain polo t-shirt with formal pants and New Balance. Such an odd combination, yet comforting to me. I had seen him in every attire: in various uniforms, in joggers, in white Punjabi for the Friday prayers. Even though he was in his mid-forties, he always seemed older and intimidating. I remembered the first comic book that he got me from the US, the first letter he wrote me from his mission in Sri Lanka, and the first MRE he brought me from his UN training because I wanted to see what he ate, the bandana that he sent me from Darfur.

The concierge came to notify us that it was time for me to board the plane. My uncle hurried to get up, and I felt a sudden tug in my heart. I spent many months with this man and there were moments when I didn’t like his company. He felt a little too much at times. A little too intimidating, a little too authoritative, a little too unnecessary. But now, when it was time to leave him for good, something did not feel right. I wanted to hug him, but I had never hugged him in twenty years of my life.

I stared blankly at my uncle. unsure of my emotions. He rushed me to get up but then stopped. Maybe he could sense that I wasn’t ready to leave yet. He gently tapped me on the back of my head and said, “I know you’ll be okay out there; you are a good kid and I have trained you well.” I hugged him and tears rolled down my cheeks. Two decades of memories started weighing on my heart and it was too much. I picked up my bag and ran to the door, not looking back once. To this day I wonder if he broke into tears just like me, or if he stood strong fighting his emotions like he always did.

Four years later, I am okay out here living by myself. Even took a little trip to Poconos this summer. Hiked in the mountains. Got me a stick to wave around in case I see a snake or two. I wish I could go home and write a letter about my lone adventures to my uncle, who taught me everything I know. Someone who gave me the courage to be who I am today. Independent, strong, and not afraid of adventures. But he is not here among us anymore. What remains is the little difference he tried to make in this world through his actions. Maybe someday, someone will look up to me the way I looked up to him, and I too will inspire a little heart to do great things.


Raisa Zannat was born and brought up in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She is a Writing and Literature major at LaGuardia who is transferring to City College for her Bachelor’s. She currently resides in Queens, New York, and takes her writing inspiration from her South Asian diaspora. She enjoys writing about food, culture, and lifestyle.

Image credit: “Once upon a time in a valley,” Toufique E Joarder. Flickr CC BY 2.0