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Fast Zombies Rule
By Shane Faria

When people ask me what my tattoo means, I tell them, “It’s what being nineteen feels like.”

My tattoo is a $90 investment that occupies a significant portion of my right arm. It depicts a young punk rocker dressed in cut-off jean shorts and a leather, studded vest spray painting the words “FAST ZOMBIES RULE” onto a decrepit basement wall. It is a blown-up background image from an album cover by a hardcore band called Concrete Facelift, a band I don’t even listen to any more.

Going into any further detail about what the tattoo means is unnecessary. Nineteen is different to each person. Like a story that ends with, “You had to be there to understand,” FAST ZOMBIES RULE is a scrapbook compiled especially for me, by me.

I look at the “F” and recall sitting in the witch capital of the U.S., Salem, Massachusetts, getting tattoos with my brother and father.

I gaze at the cracks in the basement wall and think of a girl whose absence in my life was the reason I often had a couple more drinks than I should have.

I touch the studs on the leather jacket and remember paying five bucks to exchange sweat with strangers in a cramped Boston concert venue.

Maybe the “Z” is a reminder of Ethan, Wes and me walking out into the woods late at night behind our apartment to smoke a bowl and shoot the shit about the day. Maybe it’s about that time we locked eyes with an owl and watched as its head pivoted to follow us around the woods. Maybe it stands for both of those things.

Did you know that it takes a little over five minutes for the human eye to adapt from the transition from light into darkness? Wes told me that that year. I think that might be what the spray paint can symbolizes.

Not everything in life has to make sense. Not everything has to be doused in meaning, and even if it is, that meaning doesn’t necessarily need to be concrete.

I carry stories on my skin. The pock mark next to my right eye is the story of how my family had to delay our vacation to Nova Scotia because Jamie Cook gave me the chicken pox at vacation camp.

The long scar hidden below my thick, black hair on my leg tells the story of the time I hiked a mountain all the way up, and then fell all the way down, the worn-down soles of my Timberland boots falling victim to the early-spring ice of New Hampshire.

The tattoo on my right forearm depicts the Boston skyline with the words “True Believer” written around it. I have no problem telling those who ask what it means. It’s about staying true to myself, my friends, where I come from and what I believe in.

Someone asks me about my zombie tattoo again. I think of Salem, packed concert venues, thirty beers for the price of a movie ticket, a particular girl, retinas adjusting to welcome darkness.

I smile.

“It’s what nineteen feels like.”

***

 

Thick Skin

By Zach Hanson

I sit through appalling comments. I put up with nauseating criticism. But this time is different, and this time I cannot stay sitting still—I need to get out before I say something that will hurt anyone the way they hurt me.

When I grab my brown winter coat and step outside, I immediately feel the bite of the wind. Tugging on my green-striped hat, I take a step off the porch, crunching across the dry snow toward the mostly-broken swing set in the backyard.

It is almost fifteen degrees below zero, and I can hear maple trees cracking in the distance as the nighttime temperature drops. I know I could get frostbite, but my face is burning and my blood is still hot from what they’ve said, so I persist through the cold and shove my hands in my pockets.

My fingers brush against empty candy wrappers, and I wish I had grabbed my mittens on the way out the door, but I prefer the cold to what I would have to face if I went back inside. I kick one of the tiny yellow swings to knock the snow off, then sit down, the beam creaking above me. I always wonder how much tension it’ll take before the wood snaps.

I blink and pull my arms in tighter, bracing myself against the air. It shouldn’t always be me being pushed away, I tell myself. I’m always the outsider and I hate it, but it’s not going to change anytime soon.

I have to take my time outside, even if I’m almost starting to regret not just escaping down the hall to my room.

“Smart,” I tell myself, kicking at the snow. My breath puffs out in front of me and I shiver.

Going outside was supposed to help me, but once I start to think more about what’s going on inside, my chest starts burning again. I don’t want to think about it. I came outside to get away, not to cause myself pain. Another time I might have gone to a different room, but this argument heated my blood far too much to simply ignore. My face still burns as I sit in the cold, and I don’t want them to see that. When the enraged heat of an unwinnable argument with the family becomes too much to bear, the freezing weather starts to look more appealing. At least frostbite only hurts my skin.

Eventually, I distract myself by watching the clouds move slowly across the sky. I stand up when I feel like I’ve calmed down, and hoping the storm inside the house has passed, I crunch my way to the porch.

I finally pull the sliding door open, hearing the wheels grate against the snow that’s gotten wedged in the tracks. My sister looks around the corner. “Where have you been?”

“I just wanted to go for a little walk,” I say, fighting to pull my numb lips into a smile. “I needed to cool down.”

***

 
Shane Faria is a senior writing major at BSU. Originally from Burlington, Massachusetts, he was the Pine Glen Elementary School third grade spelling bee champion and once taught poetry skills to Jerry Seinfeld’s son. Zach Hanson is a student at Bemidji State University who spends too much time reading and wishing the weather was just a bit warmer.