“Letter to My Middle School Self,” “Pretty Girl,” and “Talk to Me” by Adriene Unpingco

Posted: June 14, 2016 in Vol. 8: Creative Writing

Letter to My Middle School Self


Remember your mother laughing

at the bitter leaf hugged

between slices of ham and cheese

in your sandwich. Thirteen, yet

you can’t tell

lettuce apart from cabbage.

When bleached-blonde tips and

a Mountain Dew T-shirt fill

your chest with helium

until the only air you breathe

is him, she will try to convince you

that you are too young to fall in love.

Trust me, she’ll say, you’ll

understand when you’re older

as she pulls from the pocket of your

polka-dotted backpack the

Valentine’s Day themed

box of heart-shaped chocolates.

But six years from now,

you will be standing

in the produce section

between piles of leafy green

and still not know the difference.



Pretty Girl


She sits at the edge of the tub.

Glacial waterfall cascades down her legs, numbing

delicate flesh to pink razor blade. She tames the

cactus needles creeping beneath her skin,

satisfied only at the feel of silk.


She runs a comb through the wet tangles in her hair.

Bottle after bottle, she sprays each six inches from her scalp.

Orange to condition, red to cure split-ends, green to protect

from the desert heat of hair dryer and straightener.

Her mother warns, “You’ll be bald by thirty-two.”


She dips a brush in powdered shades of sun-kissed

and paints a porcelain face over adolescent blemishes.

Fills in dark brown in the empty spaces of brow, humming

under her breath the familiar chant of cosmetics:

Lip-plumping, volumizing, age-defying, flawless.

Glued-on mascara lashes, merlot-stained lip,

pink and purple palette add the final touches.

All dolled up–not too much but just enough.

She unhinges the straps of her little black dress.

Tucks herself into the revealing thin fabric and

flattens out the creases around the circumference

of her hips. Origami is an art form she learned to perfect,

folding away the parts of herself that she wishes

to keep from the rest of the world.


She looks back at her polished reflection.

Painted face, hollow limbs. Sturdy plastic mannequin.


Pretty girl, there she is.




Talk to Me


The conversation begins with the parting of lips.

Your hips, unstifled by tongue against teeth,

interrogate the space between my thighs.

I feel your desperate questions,

roll in like tides, but by now

I’ve forgotten how to speak.

Drowning in a symphony of your

breath heavy on the back of my neck,

I am lost inside your ocean.

Mouths gaping, toes curling,

the weight of our bodies

pushing and pulling.

Bone against bone, still

clawing for intimacy.

I am drowning.

My fingernails dig anchors along

the ridges of your spine,

leaving behind crimson love letters

across the wet fabric of your skin.

From the depths of lung

come final gasps of release,

ironing out the wrinkled inflections

imprisoned in the back of our throats.

Together we beg

sound into syllables,

syllables into words,

words into sentences spelling out

that this is more than just fucking–


It is the echo of a universal language.



Written for Dr. David N. Odhiambo’s ENG 313: Intro to Creative Writing


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