Love Me, Love Me Not

We are so excited to announce the winners of our writing contests!
Keep scrolling to read the full winning short story and poem.
Also, be sure to check out our podcast to meet the authors and hear a reading of their work!

Poetry Winner: Jordan Emory Vens

Jordan Emory Vens began writing bad poetry at the age of 12 and has doggedly maintained the tradition. In her free time, she enjoys playing Magic: The Gathering and staring at her very pretty cat. She attends the University of Arizona in Tucson and willfully walks thirty minutes to and from school each day despite owning a car. She can be recognized by her slightly-creased red Retro Bloodlines and her inability to wear color.

“To The Boy”

to the boy at the top of the tower:

everyone loves you
but not as much as me.
you’re all well-groomed and polite,
rebellious in all the most acceptable ways
3 packs a day
and magic seeds in your sock
and the evils to which your mother won’t talk
and everyone loves you.
but not as much as me.
and you would be the boy next door
but i can’t have you anymore
even when you come down from the tower
or you invite me up to speak circles around our hearts for hours
even when you bring me flowers and hold my hand
even when i stroke your hair and ask you to stay
because everyone loves you
and they don’t trust me to do the same.

to the boy in the dungeon:

i still love you
even half a world away and breaking
even with someone else’s name stamped into my flesh i still love you
and your hair grows wild
as your eyes go red
and i don’t see your smile
and you’ll work til you’re dead
and when i saw you again you seemed older,
tougher around the edges
less eager to please
and i still love you
even in those chains
with your ribs sticking out
and your sun too far away
i still love you.

to the boy a world away:

she seems to love you.
don’t get me wrong, she’s not as cute as me,
but god if you don’t seem happy.
she seems to love you
and you’re glowing again
and it might be the girl
or it might be the blends
but i’m happy either way
because she seems to love you
and someone has to
because i’m not there

to the boy on the other side of the couch:

i won’t say i love you
because once i do it’s sealed
it’s the ring on my finger
i won’t say i love you
because i need loving you to be the last thing i do
and what if you’re not ready to start doing the last thing you’ll ever do?
so i won’t say i love you.

to the boy in my arms:

everyone loves you,
but not as much as me.
i’m ready to do that for awhile.

Fiction Winner: Melanie Moreno

Melanie Moreno is a senior at the University of Arizona. She is currently double majoring in Theater Arts studies and Creative Writing. She is also the music director for an on campus a cappella group called Enharmonics and has been a member since her freshman year. When she isn’t directing her a cappella group she is working on her fiction writing or acting in BFA film projects! She has also recently been selected for the New Directions Festival on campus where she will co-direct her co-written play and will be produced for the stage at the school of theater! She hopes to continue her writing as well as her career in on screen acting after she graduates.

“The Car”

“How long?”

His voice is low. She picks a piece of her hair and begins to stroke it between her fingers nervously. Her eyes focused on the crack in the side view mirror. The line slashes through her reflection’s cheek. He waits for her mouth to form words, but her lips only move to lick the peppermint chapstick smeared on only moments ago.

“How long-”

“A few months.”

She blurts before he could stretch his sentence into a stumble of anxious thoughts. He sighs, letting his chest tighten into a thick knot. She could feel his body stiffen in his seat.

“A few months.” He mutters to himself in disdain. He echoes her words and releases them into the stiff air between them. He starts to think about how squished they both are in his car. He starts to think about how small his car is, sitting next to her two-story house. He spirals into the familiar thoughts. He imagined a plane going by above him, all the passengers looming out the windows and gawking over how far up they are, skimming their eyes over the puffs of green trees, the colored brick roofs of millions of houses, the bold lights illuminating the football stadium, and then there’s him in his dull white 2000 Honda Accord but to them, he’s a tiny white blob, perhaps something their eyes will never even acknowledge.

“What’s wrong?” Her soft voice pulls him out of his existential panic. He didn’t know how long he had been spaced out for. She knew he had spaced out for about a minute and a half before she felt the need to suck him back into reality, however cold it felt. She could almost hear his brain ticking.


“Don’t lie to me.” Her voice trembled as she tried to sound assertive.

“What do you want me to say?”

“Anything! I feel like lately, I have to fight for you to even look at me and when you do, you’re so far away.” He knows but even though her new life is only a 276-mile drive, it feels farther and that makes everything harder.

“I’m right here.” He manages to look at her.

“Are you?” She sees right through him.

He turns away quickly. She stares at the back of his head and thinks of all the times he’s turned away from their fights. How he wouldn’t say a word and she’d leave, with all his silence, and the next day he’s there again in this car.

“Say something. Please.” Her voice is weak. She didn’t like to cry but she found herself wanting to cry for him. He hated it when her voice sounded wet and frail.

“You should see other people…when you go back.” His voice is low. He almost wishes it was quiet enough to not even be heard. Because once he said it, he wished he could suck the words back into his mouth and swallow dryly.

“What?” She heard every letter, every sound. He was so tired.

“You should… be able to meet new people, let them give you the world.”

“What are you…?”

“I hold you back.”

“You don’t hold me ba-”

“Look at me! I’ve been stuck in this town all my life and I’ll probably never leave.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I have a job I hate, my rent is always late, I can never take you out because everything I make goes to rent anyway, – I mean look at this car.”

“I love this car.” Her eyes welled up with tears.

He almost laughs but he looks at her and sees the world glossed over her eyes. He could never see himself the way she saw him. And she could never understand how undeserving he was of her. She wanted to stand her ground. Fight. But between every breath, her lungs seemed to shrink. She could feel him pulling away. His unwillingness to fight for her breaks every fiber of her being into a million little pieces, like the stars speckled in the sky. Scattered, hopeless and so, so far away.

3 months later

“I started seeing someone.”

The air seemed to quickly shift into an unbearable hold of one single breath, as if the broken white car with two warm bodies suddenly glued together into one hollow sigh awaiting some kind of release.
She could feel the light rumbling of his car under her feet, trying to pump outbursts of warm air but the distilled cold still frosted the tips of her fingers. He couldn’t bear to look directly at her so instead he clung onto the right side of her face where her hair liked to fall in frizzy pieces. And for a brief moment, he slipped away into the dark and light browns of her hair reflecting against the streetlamp outside her house.

For a moment, he imagined her words never formulated in her mouth, never moved around her tongue and snuck out of her teeth. But the moment passed when her eyes seemed to burn through his skin as she waited for anything, something in response.

“I’m glad to hear.”

It was all he could jumble out of his head to say. His brain seemed to replicate the movement of alphabet soup, letters bobbing in and out of the thick broth, trying to make sense of the ones he could see. He watched her as she shifted uncomfortably in his ripped-up passenger seat. He didn’t often think about how beat up his little white car was. She always liked the way it never looked put together, it made her think it was loved in all the right ways. He realized his hands were fidgeting on his lap, which made him realize he didn’t know what to do with his hands, which made him grip tightly around the bottom of the steering wheel. He didn’t think reaching for her cold hands then was the right time. He could never figure out timing with her.

“Look, he’s really sweet and he makes me laugh and he…” She stops to catch her breath. Her words spilled out too quickly and she lost track of where she was going with her sentence. She pressed her iced fingers onto her face in mild frustration at his unbearable silence.

“I wasn’t going to say anything.” He says softly.

They watch each other carefully. As if afraid to talk over each other. As if the other person would say something that would somehow fix everything. But the words never formulated.

“I wish you could have just seen how much I loved you.” And for the first time in that tiny white beat-up car filled with cold unwanted air, they really looked at each other, both their hearts breaking, unknowingly in sync.

Honorary Mention: Christopher Valenzuela

Christopher is a poet, writer, and visual artist in Tucson, AZ. They are currently in their senior year at the University of Arizona and plan to continue their studies through the TeachArizona program. They have previously been published in Persona, SandScript Literary and Art Magazine, and local zines published through The Reading Series. Their work often revolves around issues of self-identification, the reformation of folklore and fairy tales, as well as darker themes revolving around their journey of self-discovery.


You never questioned my discoloration

and when I gave you my key

you opened all my doors

uncovered all my skeletons

that lurk in bloody chambers

but you were not afraid

and for that I was relieved.

I thought you would end up

another body on the pile

of forgotten names and faces

forced to kill another relationship

in the name of self-preservation

instead I get to call you mine

and feel the blood course through your veins

as we breathe new life into this tale

that once defined my past.

You take my hand and show me

how to wash the walls

and scrub the floors

of these rooms that haunt my mind

the phantoms of my past

begin to fade into the nothingness

until I have no more need

for deadbolts and keys.

We bury those forgotten skeletons

and wait for spring

when the rose bushes will bloom

and their thorns will prick the flesh

of those who may want to raise the dead.