top of page
On The Phone by Rohan Jones

Jewelry Lost in My Sleep (and Undersweetened Tea)  

by Elise Russell

Is it possible to remember the foggy mornings locked somewhere in the humid chambers of my psyche… Can you tell me, please, where are those pieces of myself, lost in the night?

There isn’t much to pull from the dull minutes following that evening, just an image of that old friend, hairs slowly growing back where a razor had shaved their white eyebrows clean off. Their mother’s coffee shop, a sticky wooden table. How the rest of us sat around it, wordless, drinking iced hibiscus tea and yearning for sugar, gazing into the eternal void that was a plate of poppy-seed bagels. Unbearably loud music covered us in a mist of exhaustion when I noticed this separation we had from each other, removal from reality at a level that I haven’t had the displeasure of experiencing since.

          It’s interesting, I think, to understand the limited capacity we have for adventure, to experience a youthful bliss at night just for the blur of it all to become meaningless upon waking up, its only imprint being revealed when you discover one of your earrings has fallen out. The only thing to observe was the loss, the toll, the absence of beauty that I thought must’ve been just six hours earlier. The aftermath of those exciting exploits left me empty as I sat with my friends, just another group of teenagers with dissociative disorders, trying to digest our own emotions and a fourth of a bagel with cream cheese.

          Maybe the fun we had outweighed the sore eyes, the smudged eyeliner and sensitivity to human contact that followed, but it’s too late to judge now. Lightly lingering flashes of memory show our little group of five sitting in a circle, shivering, passing around a bottle. Each took their turn in revealing slightly more about their lack of home life than anyone was comfortable with—I can still feel that dry burn in my throat, swallowing the amber silence of someone’s cracking voice, something pressing against our eyes, up our nostrils. Teen angst has its own kind of intoxication.

          Another flashthe full moon and my skull against the rocky concrete road, the coolness of asphalt on my skin, pebbles digging into my elbows, waves of music hitting my ears as we gathered, laying in shivering parallel lines. Two were closer than others, woven together in giggles of want that were later brushed away with shame. It was off-putting, how that giddy tension the rest of us observed dissolved before our eyes. Our wondering ceased soon enough, the mysterious wreckage of their situation wasn’t meant to be investigated. No one spoke of what they saw in those two, but there was always this tension, this understanding, unspoken acknowledgment emerging. Disrupting the peace our gaggle of fools basked in wouldn’t do any good.

          It was a bubbling, brewing chaos of shared truth that lingered in the air, in that heavenly absence of our own noise as we looked up at the sky, its saucer of light, penny sharp and bright against its star-stained background. That music humming from weak iPhone 7 speakers, warm against the January air, was so far removed from what we heard the morning that followed. The music that blasted in that cafe was just more mindless noise knocking against the shells of us. Nothing could shake us to life again. Doomed to live without purpose, drowning in a maroon pool of empty, empty, empty, bleeding out.

"My nostalgia, its acid pulling up through my stomach, into my throat, dissolves the logic that kept me safe that winter, and now I’m living in loops."

          Those glimpses of recognition that pop in and out of my peripheral show me this fatigue of wasted effort, longing to be grounded in some hint of experience. My friend’s coffee shop made me sick with a desire to uncover pure, uncorrupted existence. But hindsight is something strange. My nostalgia, its acid pulling up through my stomach, into my throat, dissolves the logic that kept me safe that winter, and now I’m living in loops. Wishing back and forth between these versions of myself, separated only by a few hours of sleep, the chase never stops. There was a reason we always would try to escape, we only wanted to feel, to know, unaware we already had what we were searching for.


About the Writer...

Elise is a Junior at the Willow School in New Orleans, and a member of Willow’s Certificate of Artistry (CA) Creative Writing Program there. They have lived most of their life in New Orleans, apart from two years near Washington D.C. With a passion for stories since they could read, Elise loves to learn and explore life through language. Besides writing, they also enjoy music, cooking, crocheting, and traveling. Their creative writing teacher, Dr. Allison Campbell, supports their work—you can find her at

About the Artist...

Rohan Jones is a 17-year-old high school senior at the Episcopal School of Jacksonville. He relishes capturing moments on the street that would otherwise be unnoticed. For him, film photography began as an experiment but quickly grew to be a passion and the preferred medium to portray his work. Rohan is currently developing his AP Photography Portfolio, where he will be including a variety of film prints and digital images.

bottom of page