You are on page 1of 22

Dear Reader

,
Thank you for spending some time with the 2015 print
issue of PROMPT Literary Magazine. This year’s entries
come from an exceptional array of artists and writers. Our
organization is determined to find some of the best hidden
genius writers and artists on campus, and this issue is a
perfect example of the unexpectedly brilliant work that
comes from the minds of Northwestern students.
We found that though this issue is not themed, the submissions focused primarily on people, and the humanity
that can be found in anything from a simple conversation
about the body to the trials of the loss of a sibling. These
writers and artists truly represent a diverse set of ideas and
values. Read and experience these pieces with care - let
them move you, teach you, or make you think.
We hope this magazine inspires you to make art of your
own, whether it’s a poem, a painting, or a song. Thanks
for reading!
Literary Love,
Megan Bounds
PROMPT Editor-in-Chief

Table of Contents

Art

Poetry

Cover Art: Pink by Ann Ho

Girl With Her Hair Cut Short by Mahalia
Sobhani
Two Girls by Emma Hill
Mudfish by Samantha Kostick
The Little Mermaid by Julie Lunde
Jewel by Mahalia Sobhani

Dissolve by Ann Ho
Selection from Albany Park photo series by
a.ciurcina
Pink by Ann Ho
Sheerblue: A Sketch by Lauren Gold
Artemis by Ann Ho

Prose
James by Lauren Gold
Conversion by Mahalia Sobhani
Not My Body by Dana Davis
Saturday November 7th by Sunjay Kumar

Girl with her hair cut short
by Mahalia Sobhani
Monday unfolds slowly on this cold toast morning.
The window faces southeast, so she doesn’t bother to turn
on the overhead light. She moves through thick six o’clock air,
to wardrobe, to bathroom, and then the mirror in the margins
of her sight.
A double take, half awake, half forgetting all
that is no longer there: inches on inches of soft locks,
dropped so recently. Her toes curl on the cold floor.
She fingers the unfamiliar ends, turns head slow
to catch the light on a favorable cheekbone.
It falls on the exposed new neck instead,
the gooseflesh raised at the touch of sun and chill.
Last week she looked like a girl, she thinks.
There will be time later to decide what she looks like now:
Woman, or boy, or friend, or lover. For now,
there is breakfast in the next room and the sun
is ascending.

Inspired by “Boy With His Hair Cut Short” by Muriel
Rukeyser

James
By Lauren Gold
James died on December 11th, 2005. The family took it as one
might expect. Ally sat on the floor of a Sunday school classroom,
playing with plastic lions, while her parents were downstairs preparing for the funeral reception. Ally was too old for these toys at
9-years-old, and she knew it; but she couldn’t put them down. She
walked the smaller lion up the side of a table. Its leg got caught
on a nail, but she forced it up, causing the leg to break off. She
dropped the figurine on the floor.
Ally’s mother, Judy, stood in the doorway.
“Bean,” she said.
Ally turned around to see her mother’s hand out. She got up to
meet it. Judy led Ally down the stairwell. It smelled like crayons.
Judy described the food that was at the reception. Roast beef,
spinach salad, mashed potatoes, pecan pie. Ally wasn’t hungry.
“You can have a soda,” Judy offered.
Judy cracked the top off a can of Sprite and handed it to Ally.
She was allowed only one. Ally sipped on it. It felt spicy. She
approached a round table and took her place in front of an empty
plate. Her father, Jeff, spoke to Mr. Walter, James’s baseball coach
by the buffet. Mr. Walter put his hand on Jeff’s back and patted it.
Ally took the lion’s leg out of her pocket and placed it on the plate.
Jeff and Mr. Walter shook hands and continued to fill their plates.
The room was hollow. Not many were in the space, but more
arrived in waves. Matthew Tyler, who everyone called Matt Matt,

entered the room holding his mother’s hand. He dropped it when
he saw Ally and ran over to her table. He hugged her and greeted
her. She offered him a sip of her Sprite.
He accepted. “Coke is better.”
She took the can back, feeling its weight. There wasn’t a lot
left.
Jessica Ramus, who was one year younger than Ally but skipped
first grade, stood at the buffet next to her mother, Dee. Dee was
speaking to Judy. She reached into her purse for a small packet
of tissues, pulled one out and wiped the running mascara from
under her eyes. Jessica looked at her mother and then down at
the buffet. She dipped a finger into the mashed potatoes and
then put her finger in her mouth. She did it again. This time she
pursed her lips, and wiped her finger on her black dress, leaving a
faint white line.
Jessica turned to see Ally and Matt Matt, and waddled over to
meet them.
“My mom told me to tell you sorry that you don’t have a brother
anymore.”
“I do have a brother.”
“You have another brother?” Matt Matt asked.
“No.”
“Then you don’t have brother anymore,” said Jessica.
“I do! He’s just not here. And I won’t see him for a long time.”
Ally, now holding the lion’s foot, squeezed it under the table with
both hands.
“My dad says that when we die, we just go under the dirt and
get eaten by worms.”

“Don’t say that, Jessica.” Matt Matt turned to Ally, “It’s not true.
He’s an angel now. Like my dog, Charlie!”
Ally kept looking down at the plastic foot. Her fingers pressed
into it hard enough to leave small ridges on her skin.
Judy, Jeff and Ally stood by the door of the reception room.
People left slowly, saying goodbye as they did. An elderly couple
approached the family.
“Tragedy. That’s what it is. Tragedy.” The old man shook Jeff’s
hands and squeezed Judy.
The old woman, who was openly weeping, wrapped her arms
around Ally and sniffled. Her armpits closed around her ears,
pushing Ally’s face into her cleavage. Ally heard the muffled
wailing.
People, whom Ally barely recognized, exited through the door.
They would say goodbye to her parents, and look at her with
twisted expressions. She looked down with every glance.
Matt Matt said goodbye with his mother, and walked out the
door. He stopped, and came back inside.
“I want to give you something.” Matt Matt reached into his
pocket and handed Ally a Pokémon card. It had a feline-looking
creature on it, and was holographic. It reflected light onto a nearby wall as Ally moved in back and forth in her hand.
“It’s really, really rare. And it’s my favorite. But I know you
won’t lose it.”
Ally nodded and gave him a hug. “Thanks, Matt Matt.”
His mother came inside and grabbed his hand.
“Goodbye, Ally. Come over any time,” she said.

They left. Soon after, Jessica and her mother and father approached. Dee’s face was caked with peach foundation. Under
the lights, streaks on her face were visible. Black goop was
trapped within creases under her eyes, which were red. Tears
rested in her eyelashes. She bent down to hug Ally, and then
moved over to Judy. Mr. Ramus stood a few feet away. When he
made eye contact with Jeff, he nodded and immediately looked
away.
Jessica put one arm around Ally’s shoulders and squeezed her.
“I’ll see you at school tomorrow?”
Ally looked up at her mom and back at Jessica.
“Jessica, she’s not going to school if she doesn’t want to. And
that’s okay,” said Dee as she put a hand around the back of her
daughter’s neck and squeezed. She led Jessica out the door, as
she fidgeted.
Ally tilted the Pokémon card back and forth, watching the holographic cat as it shimmered.
Ally held her warm Sprite in the car. She took a tiny sip. It
wasn’t as spicy anymore. Her parents sat in the front seat looking
straight ahead.
“Are you glad that some of your friends came?” Judy asked.
“I think so,” Ally replied.
There was a brief moment of silence.
“I saw James’s 5th grade teacher, Ally. She said she’s excited to
have you in her class next year,” Jeff added.
“I don’t want to ever be in 5th grade,” Ally said.
Jeff opened his mouth to say something, but simply exhaled.

“We have so many leftovers that we can eat for lunch tomorrow,”
Judy said.
“That’s nice,” Jeff said, “That will be nice.”
Judy leaned against the window and put her hand on her forehead and eye. Ally saw her reflection in the side view mirror. Her
hand covered her right eye, and she was frowning. Her mouth
was a perfect downturned curve. She looked like a cartoon.
Jeff took his hand off the steering wheel and put it on her thigh.
She moved her hand to cover more of her face and then put her
other hand over his. She squeezed it.
Ally looked out the window. No one was outside. Frost clung to
the corners of the glass. The sky was the same color as the cement
sidewalk. A flock of geese in a V glided through.
Ally dug her hand into her coat pocket. She felt the card, but
nothing else. She put her hand in her other pocket. There was
nothing there but a tube of petroleum jelly that her mother gave
her earlier.
“I left something.” She felt a surge of panic.
“What did you leave?” Asked Judy.
“I left something in the room where all the food was. I know
exactly where it is. Can we go back?”
“What is it that you left, Ally?” Jeff glanced at her in the rearview
mirror.
“It’s. It’s a part of a toy and I really, really think I should have it.”
Jeff put his hand back on the wheel. Judy straightened up.
“Honey, I don’t think we have time to go back. Maybe we can buy
you the same toy another day.”
Ally felt dizzy. Her forehead and nose stung.

“I don’t want a new one. I just want the part that broke off. I think
I need it.”
“Ally,” Jeff said.
“Daddy! Please!” She began to cry.
“Ally, we’re almost home,” Judy turned around in her chair, her
eyes pleading.
Ally felt furious to the point that her stomach ached. “I promise I
don’t want any more toys for the rest of my life, I just really need
it!”
Jeff sighed. He got in the left lane at the next light instead of the
usual right and made a U-turn.
Terrence, a security guard, unlocked the large doors of the reception room and propped them open.
Judy knelt down next to Ally. “Be quick.”
Ally ran into the room and made way for the table. The white linen tablecloth was gone, as was the plate that was at her chair. She
bent over and looked under the table. It was dark. She got onto
her knees and elbows and put her face on the carpet. Nothing was
under her chair. A small object rested by one of the table legs. She
reached for it and picked it up. It was a small piece of wet asparagus. She flicked it in disgust.
Ally pressed her body against the floor and lay face down with her
hands at her sides. She cried.
Jeff walked up behind her and sat in one of the chairs. He put his
hand on her back.
“Honey, I’m sure it’ll turn up. We have to go.”
“Why isn’t it here?” her voice was muffled against the carpet.

“I can’t tell you, Ally. But we have to go. We can’t make Mr. Terrence stay here any longer.”
She scraped her head to the side. The fibers of the rug burned her
cheek. She lifted it up one of her hands toward her father. Jeff let
out a puff of relieved laughter. He grabbed her hand and swung
her whole body off the ground.
Judy buckled Ally’s seatbelt, even though Ally could do it herself,
and kissed Ally on the forehead. Ally reached up and put her arms
around her mother’s neck, squeezing her. Judy squeezed her back.
Jeff pulled the broken automatic door closed, winking at Ally just
before he went around to the driver’s side.
Ally put her elbow on the armrest of her seat and rested her temple on her knuckles. She looked down and closed her eyes. Her
head was filled with lead. She audibly yawned.
“I could use a nap too.” Judy also yawned.
“That’s not such a bad idea.” The chain of yawns reached Jeff.
Ally giggled and opened her eyes. She saw something small under
her mother’s seat in front of her. She leaned down to pick it up,
but was just out of reach.
The small lion’s paw was just visible. It had a couple stray hairs
on it and was surrounded by Goldfish crumbs.
Ally laughed.
“What’s so funny?” Asked Jeff.
She grabbed the nearly finished Sprite from the cup holder to her
right and put it against her face. The can had gotten cold from
sitting in the car. She finished up the rest and set it back down.
She put her face against her fist, and pretended to fall asleep.

Two Girls
By Emma Hill
Two girls in step with nowhere else to be,
An afternoon ahead, and with delight
They skip to some shared song played silently,
As honest laughter keeps their eyes shut tight.
A breeze appears but neither seems to care,
As arms swing to the lilting tune within.
Around each face a swarm of tendriled hair
Licks lovingly at nose and brow and chin.
Such blindness does not stay, it’s understood
And so the image fades, not meant to last
As it was taken I had asked, “What could?”
Now as I see it wane I ask, “What has?”
Two women walk, and with each stride make clear
No longer is there rhythm both can hear.

Dissolve
By Ann Ho

Mudfish
By Samantha Kostick
It is winter here, up against the beach
Ice crusts the rocks, the cracks of tides push
in from deep and far where tropical
Warmth still soothingly coos to the
Hemispheres. These bitter blown places bleak,
Bleached by eons of temperamental waves who
Grind stones to thin sand in their tantrum teeth.
A fit that has reached its peak: white cold, still,
Those tides cannot live here with their ever
To and fro, their stable wax and wane; no foam
Comes in to kiss the frozen grains. Nothing
Comes to stay but chaffed cheeks—brittle fingers.
Beneath the glassy stare of hardened lakes
Mudfish sleep in thick beds like infants.
And, in their fitful hot-faced sleep, rehearse
The melting spring, when pebbles will greet them,
Warm and wet against their sticky fresh toes.
Their eyelids flutter on this dream to play
It again, bathed in rippled sun water.
But now the hush of sleep, of black wind.
Blowing past supple satiated skin
Hibernating beneath. Oh to out-sleep
The spring! waking only when she wakens,
Knowing only equatorial eyes
Opening on pink and green and yellow—

To forget frost setting down over bones
Of old mudfish and their sleeping children’s children,
Blowing eternal cold on grayed minds,
Growing fear, so with every year the brush
With March is less enamored, more unkind,
To be one of those eternally young
Who’s succulence deep drifts cannot corrupt
Instead of a tormented child of Winter.

Selection from Albany Park photo
series
By a.ciurcina

Conversion
By Mahalia Sobhani
As we laid on the itchy grass under the tree that was a mistake you
talked about Jesus and confession and wine that was really blood
which was really wine and I opened my heretic red mouth and said
words about forgiveness and headscarves but if you had forced me
into the little box closet for one of those confessions you just mentioned I would have admitted I was distracted looking at the way
your gold cross glinted as it slipped under your t-shirt and thinking
about the smell of your sunscreen
You sat up and turned my shoulders to face you and you were
talking so earnestly about Midwestern colleges with both engineering and English programs and then long lazy days I could fill
with all the poetry I wanted and you’d have a black briefcase and
a suit like your father’s and come home to chicken supreme and a
little girl with my eyes and then after dark we’d fuck like happily
wedded animals
And it was such a pretty picture that I could almost let myself
forget about the prerequisite baptisms and rosaries and three gods
in one God who was really three but actually one
and when I couldn’t forget I could at least bite my heretic red
tongue and tell myself
you scrape my soul bare because you
love me

The Little Mermaid
By Julie Lunde

Not My Body
By Dana Davis

In the style of Matthea Harvey’s “Mermaid Poems”

1. “What happens to you doesn’t belong to you, only half concerns
you. It’s not yours. Not yours only.”

The little mermaid gets annoyed by your Angry Ginger stereotypes. She’s not fiery, and she’s not born with it (L’Oreal RR07
Intense Red Copper, tinted bleach bleeding onto bathroom
tiles). Her hair is full of secrets and split-ends—over the masked
tail, the makeover, the gafler and the dingle-whatevers. She
didn’t think this transformation would be so hard; she had never
before heard the phrase “like a fish out of water.” The saleswoman promised her the fairest legs in the land (hairless, smooth,
thin, thigh-gap) and it had seemed like a fair trade. She would
have given up anything just to rise out of the blue, but land is
another disappointment, and she didn’t know that a sold voice
is nearly impossible to retrieve—the pawn shops love that sort of
thing, put it on the front rack in a glass jar, exposed like a heart
on a sleeve. She longs to keep ascending, to become what she is
called, aerial.

2. Sarah and Sam are at the kitchen counter as my aunt pulls a
gallon of ice cream from the freezer. She hands them spoons and
jokes with them, “Remember girls, no one likes a fatty!” They
giggle in the awkward, skinny way that eleven-year-old girls with
reeling metabolisms giggle. Knocking elbows and bulging kneecaps and dirty feet, and heaping bowls of mint chocolate chip.
3. Overheard in an aisle of Target next to a Martha Stuart jar
display, as a skinny mother reaches for her little girl. About six.
Wearing a pink dress with a little bow. Mother picking her up and
sighing, “God you’re getting big and heavy.”
4. A Glamour magazine poll of women in 2014. Question: What
would make women happiest? Answer: 54% of women vote:
“Losing weight”
5. In the Journal of Law & Policy; 2010, Vol. 18 Issue 2, p739, “The
state of North Carolina is advised to include provisions for safe
working conditions and psychological and emotional counseling
in its regulatory scheme for child beauty pageants.”
6. Note on phone, 08/11/14, “Food: flax bread (1), coffee (3)”
7. Sally, 14. Giddy to try her first sip of alcohol with her older sister

and her friends. We go out for sushi and to a “college” party. The
next morning at brunch she sighs as all the food comes out. “I’m
going to be so fat after this weekend.”
8. Jennifer Weiner says, “I have made as much peace as a plus-size
woman can make with her body but when the world sees me, they
don’t see any of [that]. They see fat.”
9. My friend Hailey, naturally very thin, sits on my bed as I fold my
laundry and fiddles with her keychain. “ I feel like all we ever talk
about is dieting. Can we please stop?”
10. Jane from high school shows up to my house in dark jeans and
a black sweater. In the outfit she had on before, “My mom told me
I looked like a sausage in a casing.”
11. Professor Renee Engeln in a presentation to my sorority. “I
think you girls should be angry about the world you live in.”
12. Overheard at my sister’s school in DC; she teaches third grade.
“She too fat to be wearing those skinny jeans.” An eight-year-old
girl about her fellow classmate.
13. Another girl at her school. “Don’t try and pick me up, I’m too
fat.”
14. Note on phone, 03/06/14, “30 elliptical, 10 row, arms, abs”
15. Sally again. Now we’re at dinner. She finishes her entire cheeseburger. She twists uncomfortably in her seat. “My stomach has

expanded five inches!!”
16. In the cab on the way home she sits next to me while she edits
a photo of her and her big sister on her phone. She tilts the screen
towards me. “Do I look bad in this?”
17. Melanie Reid says, “No matter how brave, strong or resourceful they are, they get punished for not being glamorous; for being
ordinary; careworn.”
18. And Lady Gaga says, “Pop stars should not eat.”
19. Jennifer Weiner is a forty-four year old American writer. “My
books are always going to have at least one fuller-figured character
who’s not agonizing, who’s not obsessing, who’s not miserable,
who’s just living a really happy life at whatever size she is.”
20. “If I don’t eat the week before, I can wear that dress to formal.”
21. My sister when I get home from a semester abroad. “Wow you
got so skinny…”
22. “I am always looking in the mirror and feeling disgusted with
myself…I have love handles. Cellulite on my thighs, and countless
other imperfections.”
23. Note on phone, 10/17/13, “Feet that face the wrong way in the
bathroom stalls of the bars and in the sorority houses.”
24. Me: “She got so fat.”

25. You: “No, she was always fat.”

37. You: “You look great!”

26. Me: “Yeah but stalk her pictures from freshman year.”

38. Me: “You look so thin!”

27. You: “See yeah, she used to be so much thinner.”

39. Silence.

28. Me: “She’s one of those people who think is fat but actually
isn’t really. Cause she has a round face.”

40. You: “All I want is to be healthy.”

29. A friend of mine from freshman year. “I was so chunky that
year. But then again we would eat like ten cookies as a snack. Like
who did we think we were?”
30. “I wanna see all those big fat ass bitches in the motherfucking
club, fuck you if you skinny bitches.”
31. She walks alongside me in Paris, her words running a mile
a minute. “The thing is, what my mom can’t understand, is that
when I’m eating, I’m happy.”
32. “I’m not super thin, but I’m thin for like, Detroit.”
33. My gorgeous mother in the dressing room. “I’ve gotten so fat.”
34. My beautiful sister spends her days trying to change the world.
“I was so skinny then. But I gained it back.”
35. You: “All I want is to lose ten pounds.”
36. Me: “Ten pounds and I could stop.”

41. Me: “I realize if I’m not happy now, I never will be.”
42. Both of us: “She should not be wearing that crop top.”
43. “How to care for the injured body
the kind of body that can’t hold the content it is living?
And where is the safest place when that place must be someplace
other than in the body?”
44. “That’s when I really stopped eating. I started to be very, very
conscious of the fact that I wasn’t eating, and it became a big
game. How long can you go, how little can you eat, how much
weight can you lose?”
45. Undocumented immigrant women in Trenton, being weighed
and measured for an ID card. “You can measure me but only
height - not circumference!”
46. My great-aunt to my grandmother via text. “Found pants today, but not the skinny jeans - I’m too fat!!! Hate going shopping.”

47. “I can’t weigh myself every day. I’ll get psycho about this.”
48. The Guardian wonders, “Why is Women’s Body Anxiety at
Such Devastating Levels?”
49. Note on phone. 07/10/12. “20 elliptical, 20 bike, 20 run.”
50. “Sometimes I’m running and get passed by a 70-year old woman with a better body. I can’t be skinny all the time.”
51. “By the way, I like run and work out. It takes a lot of effort to
look like a normal-slash-chubby woman.”
52. “I don’t want to think about this for the rest of our lives.”
53. Me: Do you have gluten free?
54. You: I don’t eat sugar.
55. Me: I don’t eat dairy.
56. You: My mom and I are trying a wheat free diet together.
57. Elizabeth Metcalf says, “The rarest thing in the world is a
woman who is pleased with photographs of herself.”
58. “The reason I was going to the gym was to try and get a
bigger butt. I did mad lunges for the longest time. Latinas are
supposed to have asses, you know.”

59. “You don’t speak unless you are spoken to and your body
speaks to the space you fill and you keep trying to fill it except the
space belongs to the body of the man next to you, not to you.”
60. Michelle Obama says, “Women in particular need to keep an
eye on their physical and mental health, because if we’re scurrying
to and from appointments and errands, we don’t have a lot of time
to take care of ourselves.”
61. Nicole Hollander, “Can you imagine a world without men?
No crime and lots of happy fat women.”
62. “Not everything remembered is useful but it all comes from
the world to be stored in you. Who did what to whom on which
day? Who said that? She said what? What did he just do? Did she
really just say that? He said what? What did she do? Did I hear
what I think I heard? Did that just come out of my mouth, his
mouth, your mouth? Do you remember when you sighed?”
​ 3. Nora Ephron, “Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for
6
the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this,
go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until
you’re thirty-four.”
Author’s Note: The above is a collage essay. Most names have
been changed to protect the identities of those included. Some
unattributed quotes are from Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, and
Courtney Martin’s Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters.

Jewel
Or Walking to the Grocery Store, Listening to Someone Else’s
Spotify Playlists
By Mahalia Sobhani
For every girl young woman walking down this street in the
sunshine holding a small, pretty notebook and a knowing smile
on her face,
there is me another girl young woman who hasn’t done that in
a while, because there are eggs to be bought and softer people
depending on her.
And they both walk with the same stride, but this second girl
young woman steps with a strange furtive guilt, like being
caught with the hand in the cookie jar,
(except the jar is empty and she is a grown adult who has forgotten to make more cookies)
but she is prepared, if asked, to say with just the right amount of
flippancy that she doesn’t have time to make things like playlists
anymore,
she is a busy girl woman, with eggs to be bought,
and no of course it has nothing to do with anything as soft and
simple as
missing a friend who maybe had really good taste in spotify
playlists
and a heart like the autumn sun

Pink
By Ann Ho

Sheerblue
A Sketch by Lauren Gold

Artemis
By Ann Ho

Saturday November Seventh
By Sunjay Kumar
Abhishek Jadhav boards the Deccan Queen a little after seven
am Saturday morning, sitting in the no-AC chair car. It’s one of
those clear November mornings where the night’s chill has yet to
be burned off. He shrugs off his jacket onto the back of his seat
and peers through the foggy glass. There’s nothing to see but the
trash on the track, so he settles into watching pre-downloaded
music videos on his phone. A man sits in the aisle seat beside him,
with hennaed orange gray hair and a crumpled suit. Abhishek
doesn’t more than glance at him, turning back to the EDM remix
of some old American song that Avi said is the best song of the
year. The train starts moving during the first drop when the
cartoon in the video is jumping sideways shooting with two guns
like she’s in a Hrithik Roshan film. Abhishek closes the window
to text Avi that the video is officially the worst thing he’s seen all
year, and then switches to listening to Janelle Monae and staring
at the window, where only a yellow blankness hints of the world
beyond the tracks.
The vibration of the text tugs Abhishek back into consciousness. The tracks are now bordered by the backsides of informal
settlements and mounds of construction rubbish, turned yellow
from the color of the glass. The train is probably fifteen minutes
from the station, and the text is not from Avi but from Rahul,
asking when he’ll be at the station. Abhishek clicks off it to see if
he’s missed another text, maybe when the train stopped briefly at
Lonavala, but there are no others.
Next to him the henna-haired man snores, face tilted out toward

the aisle. Abhishek has a flash of guilt about telling his father he
was going to Mumbai for work. Baba had smiled and told him not
to work too hard, then turned back to the TV to watch the Coke
Studio concert, Papon performing one of his film songs. Abhishek
could have just said he was going to go clubbing and gotten the
same smile. It wouldn’t have even been a lie, really.
Abhishek looks at his phone, sighs, and flicks to respond to Rahul’s
message.
The train creaks to a stop and soon Abhishek is walking down the
long platform, past the teenager dozing on the sandbags and the
well-dressed businessmen leaving the AC car. Unlike Pune, the
weather is already warm and sticky, and while the rainy season
has been over for more than a month the sun filters sickly through
the smog. Rahul’s response said he’d be here in five minutes, so
Abhishek prepares to wait for thirty. As Abhishek stands outside
the station, he idly opens the Planet Romeo app, scrolling through
to see a host of new faces and screennames.
Five idle online conversations later, Rahul’s small gray car pulls
up. Rahul is dressed, as usual, in a shirt that shimmers slightly
and sunglasses that wouldn’t have looked out of place on Deepika
Padukone. Abhishek fakes a smile as he gets in the car, ignoring
Rahul’s scent of Axe Signature and mild desperation. He even
manages to give English polysyllabic answers to Rahul’s small-talk
babbling, but eventually ends up staring out the window at the
wide streets and cars following most traffic laws. They are heading
south through the city to Colaba, past colonial buildings and new
hotels, and small shops that only tourists ever go to. Abhishek will
be staying in a reasonably-priced hostel further north, but Rahul’s
family has an apartment here. He checks his phone, but Avi

hasn’t responded. It’s not yet noon, so there’s a good chance he’s
either at work or not even awake yet, back in Pune.
Rahul turns into a narrow parking garage, climbing two floors and
parking snugly between two large sedans that wouldn’t have fit in
any other city. The rest of Rahul’s family is in London for the week,
but he tells Abhishek their maid is coming in an hour to make
lunch. “And there’s no problem with you staying over if you want,”
he adds. Abhishek ignores him. They’ve had this conversation
already. Once again, Abhishek regrets not taking the evening bus
and getting here just in time for the party.
Rahul’s apartment is spacious, with matching black chairs and a
sofa with pale green highlights. The pictures on the wall include
both natural landscapes and icons of Lord Krishna and Radha.
The floor is clean. On an end table there is a book with reading
glasses resting on it. There is a glass door beyond which is a large
balcony and a view of the city. Rahul turns on the TV, and both of
them spend the next hour ignoring it and staring at their phones.
Abhishek had met Rahul a year before, when he was working for
Rahul’s father’s firm. Rahul had taken immediately to Abhishek,
and made sure to help him get acquainted with the scene. Rahul is
on all the email lists and in all the Facebook groups, and Abhishek
had been curious. Rahul is still Abhishek’s primary source of
information, though. Abhishek shares a gaming computer with his
brother, Subhesh, and even incognito mode doesn’t delete emails.
It’s not until Abhishek starts checking work emails that he realizes
his neck is starting to get sore from sitting in the same position on
the couch, hand resting on the plush armrest only a few inches from
the metal statue of Lord Shiva on the side table. He stands up, and
Rahul glances up at him, but turns back to his phone. Abhishek

walks to the balcony door, and slides it open.
The humidity of the air startles him. He hadn’t realized that the
apartment was so air conditioned. He closes the door behind him
and is shut outside with the noise of the cars on the roads and the
shouts of the boys playing football in the park by the apartment
tower. Abhishek watches the football players in their matching
shirts and sneakers kick the ball back and forth, and wonders
how many of them will be engineers in fifteen years. He wonders
how many will leave India for university, traveling to England,
Canada, America, Germany. He looks at his phone, which has no
text messages, and opens the PR app.
“Are you going to the party 2night?” he types to one of the conversations he’d opened previously. The torso on the other end says
no, but it is not busy now. Abhishek smiles, and replies, no longer
watching the football game several stories below.
“I’m going for a walk,” Abhishek tells Rahul when he walks back
into the apartment.
Rahul is startled. “Where to?” He reaches for his coat.
“I’d like to go by myself.” Abhishek always feels a twinge of guilt
when he’s rude to Rahul. “I haven’t been to Colaba in a while.”
Rahul frowns at him, but sits back down. He’s used to Abhishek
by now. Abhishek’s phone vibrates in his hand, another message
received, but he doesn’t look at it. Rahul notices, though.
“Have fun on your walk,” he says too brightly.
Abhishek is out the door and has pressed the button to summon
the elevator before he looks at the message. It has an address, but
even by the time Abhishek is on the street the maps app has not
loaded, so he stands near the door, staring at his phone. Then the
directions to Leopold Cafe appear on his screen, and he starts to
walk, trying to recall the little bit of German he knows.

That evening, Abhishek and Rahul arrive at the entrance to
the hotel. From the street, the concrete overhang above the
entrance shields the glow of the glass windows that front the
lobby. Abhishek notes the people walking into the hotel, his eyes
searching for something. Rahul doesn’t notice that he’s slowed
down until he reaches the door and opens it. He hesitates, turned
around to look at Abhishek. Abhishek rearranges his face into a
grin and follows him. He feels the apprehension tug at his smile,
and decides that a neutral expression is easier to maintain. They
stop in the hotel lobby, looking for a sign. One of the peons
notices them and motions them sideways, to the elevator. “Floor
one,” he says.
Abhishek leaves the elevator ahead of Rahul, and sees the door
to the lounge. He hears a familiar electronic beat that he can’t
quite place, but he’s not letting himself think as he walks up to
the bouncer, who asks him for 700 rupees. He hesitates for a
moment, and the bouncer adds that the cost includes two drinks.
Abhishek’s smile snaps back, and he pays the bouncer. Rahul is
still getting his wallet out, but Abhishek refuses to wait another
moment and opens the door.
The music is louder than he expected, loud like Ganapati on
Laxmi road. He doesn’t know why he expected anything different. Every place he’d been in Pune, One Lounge, the Westin,
Apache were all this loud. He recognizes the song now, from this
morning, as it slips into the softer remix, crooning in English. He
walks forward, toward the bar, which is the brightest part of the
room, and his eyes are starting to adjust. He is surrounded by
men, talking over the music in small circles, seated at short tables
with drinks ranging in color from clear to blue to brown. He
barely registers the two women seated off in the corner,

talking intensely and pointedly ignoring the rest of the room. His
eyes move to the left of the bar, where an alcove, or possibly a
large portion of the room is hidden behind a corner of the wall.
People are dancing there.
“What do you think?” Rahul’s voice is in his ear, Hindi now
instead of English.
So this is it, then. A “gay party”. When Rahul first texted the
words to him, his stomach felt hollow and his face flushed, like it
did whenever a new guy on PR wanted to meet up. It would be
better than clubbing in Pune, where he’d watch from the wall as
his friends tried to dance in a group near where a group of girls
were dancing, or try and talk to the blonde foreigners who barely
understood English. Here he wouldn’t have to avoid watching
men from a distance while pretending that he didn’t mind being
perennial wingman.
It is an hour later and Abhishek has not started dancing. He is
holding a smile on his face while yet another middle-aged man,
this one with an obvious bald spot on his crown, tries to get
him to come dance. “I can’t dance unless I’m drunk,” Abhishek
lies, ignoring the fact that he’s on his fourth drink. Avi had given
Rahul the monkier “creepy guy” after he liked all of Abhishek’s
photos of his trip to Aurangabad with his family, but so far every
person here deserved that label more. They were also all old.
The youngest person other than him and Rahul here is at least
ten years older than Abhishek. A couple of them have even told
him, as though it’s a compliment, that they “actually prefer darker
men”, as though he should be flattered. Abhishek turns away from
the balding man, blanking him out like he blanks out beggars on
the street. He recalls the German from earlier, who spoke in poor
Marathi-accented Hindi.

He had Konkanastha Brahmin eyes and said that his mother was
born in Mahabaleshwar. He had sat on his bed and played guitar
naked, warbling Lady Gaga and Coldplay in a broken baritone,
and Abhishek had almost decided not to go to the party.
He is here now, though. Abhishek’s eyes glance toward the dancing alcove, which he now knows is the location of the DJ’s booth.
Rahul doesn’t seem to mind the age of his dancing partner, who
is Gujarati and has the sort of wrinkles one develops from fifteen
years of late-night coding. His eyes skim the now familiar crowd,
until he locks eyes with a kid sitting at one of the short tables.
Panic rises from somewhere inside of him. He turns away quickly,
thinks about pretending he is someone else, disappearing into
the dancing mass and finding anyone, even a man too old to have
figured out that deodorant was an essential part of going out.
Abhishek’s mind catches. He realizes he missed something obvious. The fact that Abhishek is here and has seen him means that
Subhesh is also here, at a gay party.
Subhesh glances back. The boy, next to Subhesh is also familiar.
His name is Vijay, and he’s Subhesh’s classmate, has been to
the Jadhav’s house several times. Abhishek recalls hearing that
Subhesh was spending the weekend with Vijay’s family, but at
the time he had just been slightly concerned that Baba would be
home alone all weekend.
Abhishek is pretty sure Subhesh went to school today, so Vijay
and Subhesh must have come on the bus rather than the train.
Abhishek tries not to think about how, two years ago, Subhesh
had gotten lost one night near Laxmi Road, less than a kilometer
from Budhwar Peth. Abhishek had to come get him that time,
but Subhesh is in his second year college now and has had his
two-wheeler for over a year.

Abhishek is staring into the middle distance, and comes back to
himself. He is no longer panicked. He also is slightly annoyed
that the bar had let in a pair of seventeen year-old kids, until he
remembers that he’s been drinking hard liquor tonight and he’s
not yet twenty-five.
He turns back around to check that they’re still there. They are
looking at each other and talking. Abhishek is somewhat surprised he hadn’t seen them before. They stood out clearly, looking
like children still with adolescent pimples. He considers going
over to them, but then decides against it. He does, however, take
a break from the loud bar to use the washroom.
The washroom is white-tiled and has both Indian and European
toilets. He ignores the sounds coming from the stall behind him
and splashes water on his face. He briefly wonders what Rahul
is doing, then dries his hands on the sides of his pants and checks
his phone. There are no texts, but there is a message on PR from
the German, telling him in English that it was nice to meet him
and hopefully they can stay in touch.
When Abhishek gets back to the door of the bar, he stops, and
turns instead into the restaurant, which is attached to the bar and
sealed off from it by foggy glass doors. The sounds are muted
here, and a server who had been dozing in a seat near the kitchen
wakes up and offers him a cup of tea. He drinks it slowly, and
he thinks. When the cup is empty, he pulls out his phone, but
checking Facebook seems suddenly exhausting and instead he
puts down the cup and rests his head on his hands.
The music is still playing, but the room is much less crowded
when Abhishek steps back into the bar.

Subhesh and Vijay are seated in the same place, now absorbed
completely in their phones, and Rahul is standing with a different
man than before, this one thinner than the last and with flecks
of gray in his thick beard. Rahul spots him, and his words spill
out quickly as he asks Abhishek if he can find his own way home.
Abhishek nods, and Rahul promptly forgets he exists, which is a
nice change.
Abhishek walks over to Subhesh and Vijay’s table and sits down
across from them. They glance up. Subhesh seems worried, but
Vijay does not.
“Are you staying with him tonight?” Abhishek speaks in Marathi,
looking at Subhesh.
Subhesh does not seem to have been expecting that question, and
it takes him a moment to react. He glares at Vijay. “I thought I
was.”
Vijay shrugs nonchalantly. “My family doesn’t have a place in
Mumbai. They only have the place in Aurangabad and in Aundh.”
Subhesh is silent for a moment, and his mouth is slightly open like
it always is when he’s trying to decide what to say.
“I have a room in a hostel.” Abhishek does not comment on their
planning. “I can call up for a cot or whatever.”
Thirty minutes later, as they stand in the queue at Churchgate
station, Abhishek’s phone vibrates. It’s a text from Avi, questioning Abhishek’s music tastes. Abhishek puts his phone on
airplane mode, and steps forward to buy tickets for himself and
his brother.
On the train they stand in the cheapest car, and Abhishek remembers someone telling him that the local trains are one of the best
cruising spots in the city.

He makes sure that Subhesh and Vijay are behind him. None of
them check their phones or say anything for the entire train ride.
The next day the three of them get on a bus for Pune, because the
Deccan Queen had already sold out for the day. Vijay and Subhesh
are sitting several rows in front of Abhishek, so he turns on Lily Allen and watches the green hills of the Deccan and the small villages
and temples they can see from the highway. Next to Abhishek is a
small man who stares at the seat in front of him.
At the Pune Junction parking lot, Abhishek stops Subhesh and
Vijay as they turn off toward Subhesh’s two-wheeler.
“Next time,” he says, “even if you don’t tell Baba, let me know.”
Subhesh hesitates.
Abhishek remembers a couple weeks ago, when Subhesh was visiting a friend in Koregaon Park. Abhishek had reminded Subhesh to
text him when he got there, and Subhesh had snapped back. “You
know I’m going to be in England next year, right?”
But this time, Subhesh just nods, then turns to leave with Vijay.
Abhishek walks to his two-wheeler, eyes mostly on the ground,
thinking. He gets on his two-wheeler and doesn’t wear a helmet,
though he hopes Subhesh is.
Abhishek is not driving home. Instead of continuing on to Aundh,
he exits from NH 50 near Deccan Gymkhana and instead drives
down Law College road, winding back to the entrance to Vetal
Tekdi. It is dark as he climbs up the hill toward the quarry, but he
doesn’t stumble. And when he clears the overhang of the trees he
can see the moon reflected on the water. He picks his way down
to the water’s edge, and skims a flat rock across the water’s surface.
Then he sits very still until he can hear the nightbirds sing. He
shivers in his jacket, and knows it’s time to go home.

PROMPT Staff
Editor-in-Chief: Megan Bounds
Managing Editor: Megan Combs
Prose Editor: Maddie Thurman
Poetry Editor: Bethany Mueller
Arts Editors: Sara Cohen and Erin Holiday
Marketing/Events: Breanna Lucas
Graphic Designer: Kyndal Thomas
Webmaster: Karen Valencia

For the first time ever, PROMPT has an online companion to its print issue. Check out our website
www.promptmagazine.tumblr.com for the following
pieces:
Poetry
My Father Sits Alone by Emma Hill
Kitchen Days by Ayla Goktan
Translucence by Samantha Kostick
Prose
People Watching by Steven Bennett
Art
Alone Time by a.ciurcina