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I never meant for this to happen.

Everyone dreams of that one event—that one encounter that sparks something extraordinary into motion. Some people even think their dream will someday turn into a much sought-after reality. I, on the other hand, was not one of those people. I knew my life was a series of boring events after boring events—of small town customs and schoolwork and familial outings. Never did I expect anything to change. But I suppose that’s the purpose of a surprise; it hits you when you’re least prepared and takes you on a journey that maybe you wished to go on and maybe you didn’t. And if at first you were unwilling, when the day is done, it is possible that you realize just how good of a ride it was.

At least that’s how it went for me.

My story began on a midsummer’s day—a day when the sky was clear and the warm air was permeated only by the slightest of breezes. I was sitting under the shade of a yew tree that must’ve been as old as the village itself, for its trunk was thicker than any other I had seen and its boughs drooped down and formed a sort of wall, obstructing my field of vision. Surrounding the tree was a field of daisies, their little yellow faces smiling up at the sun, and a short distance behind was the church, built hundreds of years ago in the red sandstone distinctive to the area. I had come here too many times to count in the short sixteen years of my life, and I could not help but think of this tree as my tree, this churchyard as my churchyard, and these daisies as the ones that I ran amongst when I was a child.

One time, my sister made me a daisy chain for me to put in my hair, and I wore it the entire day, feeling as if I were a princess and I ruled every flower in the land. For some reason, that memory returned to me now, and I felt tempted to ask my sister, Alexandra, to create another headdress for me. She sat beside me, absorbed in a thick text book that she brought home with her for the summer holidays. Years had passed since she first gathered those daisies, and now she was a graduate student at Oxford, studying history and planning on becoming a teacher once she finished her studies. She was not afraid of leaving university; rather, she was eager to enter the real world, as she called it, for she felt that it would be the true test of her capability.

If I was in her position, I would have been quivering with fear. I was thankful for the shelter that accompanied the time before adulthood; I was so nearsighted that I could not imagine what I would be doing in five years. There was the real world, and then there was my world, where I swore to myself that I would stay for as long as possible. At some point, I knew I must leave, but I tried my best not to think about that. I lived in the present, reminisced the past, and did my best to ignore the future.

Which was why it annoyed me whenever my sister brought it up.

“Alice,” she said presently. “Don’t you think you should be doing something a little more useful than watching the clouds drift by?”

“I can’t see the clouds; the branches are blocking my view,” I replied.

She sighed, and I glanced over at her. She was beautiful—far more beautiful than I. Her eyes were a striking shade of yellow-green, and her delicate features—along with her slender body—gave her a dainty look that sharply contrasted against my clumsiness. I was not tall, but I was taller than she, and my twig-sized legs made the difference seem drastic. I was gawky while she had the grace of a ballerina. The only similarity between us was our hair, which was the same color black as our mother’s. Alexandra’s hair was shorter than mine, however, and her side fringe swept prettily across her forehead.

“You’re not going to get anywhere in life if you never do anything productive,” she said as if she were disciplining a student. “Don’t you have a book to read or something?”

I scoffed. “It’s the summer. I’m taking a break.”

“Albert’s not taking a break, and he’s younger than you,” she said. “I saw him studying his Latin yesterday.”

Albert was our little brother. He was only thirteen—ten years younger than Alexandra. Sometimes I wondered if he was an accident, or if my parents planned on having him because they knew he would make me look bad. He was a rising scholar; he had the top notes in his class and seemed to be a walking dictionary—of English and Latin words.

I obviously wasn’t the brightest one in the family.

“Well, he’s Albert, and he has more brains than anyone else in Cheshire,” I said, rising to my feet. “I’m Alice, and I suppose the only thing I’m useful for is picking daisies. I would ask if you’d like to come with me, but I know you’re too busy with that dreadful book of yours.”

She shook her head disapprovingly and returned her eyes to the miniscule text on the page. Not always had she been like this. When she was younger, she had been just as carefree as I—frolicking through the flowers and daydreaming about impossible things—things like magic and colorful castles and a world of nonsense. Now she was more practical: a realist, as she put it, whereas my head was always so far up in the clouds that not even an airplane could find it.

I pulled the low-hanging branches of the yew tree away so that I could form a gap large enough for me to step out of. The sea of daisies was immense, rolling down into a valley beside the narrow lane that led to the church. Hardly any cars ever passed by; most people used the main road to reach the building. I descended the little hill, for it was a sunny day and the trees by the lane offered plenty of shade. It was pleasantly cool here, and the boughs under which my sister sat were out of sight. I crouched down and picked a handful of flowers before I was startled by a sudden cry.

“Oh dear, I’m late!”

I looked up and saw an old man hurrying along the lane, his cheeks pink with exertion. He was humorously small, with stooped shoulders and wisps of white hair that grew on the crown of his head and near his ears. His clothes were elegant and reminiscent of a previous time; he wore white gloves and carried a fan. In his other hand was a pocket watch, which he kept glancing at nervously. He was so preoccupied that he did not notice me when he approached, and he resumed talking to himself as though no one else was there to listen.

“The Queen will not be happy—not happy indeed!” he said, and I noticed that his two front teeth were abnormally large and bucked. “Oh dear, oh dear, how late I am!”

I stood and cleared my throat. Surprised, he turned to gawk at me through his oversized, round spectacles. From this close a distance I could see that his eyes were puffy and pink, and his nose twitched every few seconds as if he were about to sneeze.

“You work for the Queen?” I asked.

“Yes, yes,” he said quickly. “But you see, I don’t have time for—”

“Then what are you doing all the way in Cheshire?” I interrupted. “I hear the Queen is in Scotland this time of year.”

He cocked his head for a second; then, realization dawned on his leporine face. “No, no, no—not that Queen. A different Queen.” I opened my mouth to speak, but he immediately stopped me by adding, “Now is not the time for questions, mind you. I am terribly late, and the Queen—my Queen, not yours, yet I suppose your Queen would be my Queen as well, for I am English myself”—he checked his pocket watch once again—“Oh dear, I shall be much too late!”

He rushed to the center of the lane and glanced back at me. “You must look away; this is of the utmost secrecy,” he said gravely. “If you choose to pry, you will gain nothing but trouble. As they say, curiosity killed the cat—although there is one very much living cat whose curiosity unfortunately has not managed to kill him yet.”

“You wish for a cat to die?” I asked, appalled. I had a cat of my own; her name was Diane, and she was my favorite member of the family.

He made an impatient sound and waved the subject away with a gesture. “No matter. Just look away!”

I did as I was told—for the briefest of moments. When I took a glimpse at him, he was crouching on the ground, too engrossed in whatever it was he was doing to make sure I was following his orders. He tapped his fan twice against the asphalt, and after a few seconds, a gap large enough for a man to fit in appeared. In one swift movement, he sprung into the hole with an agility that belonged more to a creature than a human.

I gasped and ran toward where he had jumped. He was gone—the gap was dark and so deep that I could not see to the bottom. “One massive pothole,” I mused aloud. “I wonder where it leads to.”

If curiosity was able to kill the cat, which had nine lives, it would certainly do worse to me. But I could not resist. I followed the old man down.

They say it never sleeps—(who’s “they”?)

They have a reason.

People on the streets no matter what the season,

Phrases scrawled with haste, spray-painted face—

This city is a bear, but it don’t hibernate.

 

And this is where you were born—

In the back of a taxi cab,

But you don’t know who’s your dad.

That guy in the suit and tie, he’s got your eyes,

Wall-Street-bound, Prada briefcase at his side.

 

Follow him a while, just to play pretend.

He’s got your laughter—

Sudden benefactor?

It’s a free nation, but this ain’t no Great Expectations.

Not cut for Wall Street, you head for Grand Central Station.

 

Play a few songs with your beat-up guitar,

Sing a few verses,

Families watching you closely, better leave out the curses.

Quarters and dimes, “thank you for your time,”

But time’s all you got, you left nothing behind.

 

Watch your brother board the seven-twenty train,

He asks you to join, but why would you leave?

You fell in love with the concrete.

The rhythm and the blues light your heart like a fuse;

This city—it kills you, but it’s still your muse.

 

I’ll ask you one thing,

From Brooklyn and Queens,

Every borough in between,

The art on the streets, the man with the beat—

Take it all in from your head to your feet.

 

This city is sparkling—not sparkling clean,

It’s sparking, sparking electricity.

Every person, every sound with unique energy—

I’ll ask you one thing:

Can you feel it?

October

meet me in October,

and we can relive

that moment when

the focus of my life

 

became trying to get

outside of this fence that

chains me in—

holds me in—

and into your heart,

into your mind,

never regretting a thing.

 

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Stone

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Thoughtful onlooker—

The world is alive; you watch,

Petrified in stone.

 

Color

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You are my color—

Every hue, every tint is part of a masterpiece,

Which only now has been unveiled to me:

A work of swirling shades and dizzying tinges,

Of impeccable details woven together into a vision

That makes the onlooker gasp and the artist beam with pride.

You are the sky after the storm,

When the rain turns into drops of the sun

And the flashes of lighting surrender to your fireworks,

Whose crashes and booms will away the song of thunder.

Your eyes are blind, you cannot see what I behold,

But your words are art; you are my color—

The only splash of paint in a world of charcoal.

 

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Throwing pebbles that skim the surface—

The water’s depths will always remain a mystery.

If you spoke to the fish, they would tell you

That I’m wading in my mind’s shallow sea

And glimpsing at you through the waves—

You, the moon who quietly ebbs the tides.

 

A self-absorbed onlooker is all I am.

You are the only one who can pull me away

From my own mind, from my own surface.

 

All the world’s wonders combined, I see in you;

The Great Pyramid a mere pile of blocks

And the Taj Mahal a tombstone—

New York City a small town, if you’ve never been there,

And if you have, a world in and of itself.

 

We step in the same circles and lines.

Your air is mine, and the wind that caresses your face

Is the wind that tangles my hair and whispers to me

Things of the past, things beyond this wretched present,

 

Where we are unchained bandits and uncensored gamblers

Who put our money on the things we tell others

And choke on words left unsaid face-to-face.

Others forget, we never forget—

We never learn, we never try.

 

And so I wonder if silence is truly golden,

Lips glued shut, tongue dry,

My eyes cast down and yours like they were that October day

When all this started.

Yet—this is nothing, nothing at all on the surface.

 

 perfect

           Latin is considered by many to be a dead language. Once the native tongue of thousands across the Roman Empire, it nowadays is spoken fluently only by a certain few, including the Pope and other members of the Christian clergy. The use of Latin in modern times does seem limited, but upon closer examination one realizes that the language still lives on. It is the basis for some of the most spoken languages today, it has many English derivatives, and it is taught in schools around the world.

            The Romance languages branched off from Latin. Millions of people throughout the world speak these languages, which include Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and Romanian. Some of these languages are very similar, such as Spanish and Portuguese. Others, like French and Romanian, seem vastly different, but even those are linked together by certain words and grammar structures. Whether the parallels are obvious or subtle, they exist and can usually be traced back to the ancient mother language: Latin.

            Even English, which comes from the West Germanic language family, has several similarities to Latin. There are ample Latin derivatives in English, and the prefixes and suffixes most commonly used in English have Latin roots. Examples of these are the prefix anti, which means “against,” and the suffix –arium, which, in Latin, denotes a place where things are kept and, in English, can be seen in words such as “aquarium.” Some English grammar structures were also taken from Latin. For instance, the plural forms of the words “octopus” and “cactus” are “octopi” and “cacti” respectively. One is able to see the same structure in Latin, for the nominative singular ending of a second declension noun is usually “-us,” and when it is plural, it is “-i.”

            Perhaps the most important factor to take into consideration is that students, teachers, and scholars in institutions across the globe are keeping Latin alive. In primary schools, secondary schools, and post-secondary schools, Latin is a commonly offered language course. It widens the vocabulary of students and even helps them become better test-takers. In the U.S., statistics prove that students who take Latin achieve better results on the SAT than students who take other languages. In college, one may continue on the Latin path by becoming a Classics major and thus hoping to be enlightened and enriched by Latin and the corresponding ancient culture throughout his or her life and career.

            So to those who say Latin is dead: mortui vivos docent, or “the dead teach the living.” Admittedly, the flame of Latin has smoldered, but after more than a millennium since the fall of the Roman Empire, the fact that it still makes an impact on the daily lives of people in the modern era is impressive. Latin pervades cultures worldwide in its derived languages, words, and grammar structures and in its being taught to younger generations, thus ensuring that the language persists into the future.

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