Bob Freeman: He’s The Man!

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May 8, 2016

As one of the three men who pioneered the upkeep of a law that gets people to “do the right thing,” Bob Freeman is a highly regarded and respected resource for collecting data that people deserve.

 

Freeman spent about an hour an a half with a class of University at Albany journalism students Tuesday night discussing what he does, how it works, and encouraging the students to take advantage of what is available to them.

 

Freeman is the executive director for the New York State Committee on Open Government, and one of his major responsibilities is overseeing and advising regarding the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).

 

As the Committee on Open Government site states, FOIL pertains to the public’s right to gain access to government records. Freeman clarified that it is records, not information, that FOIL offers access to, and he admitted that that title could be misleading.

 

Records include things like audio or video from meetings, and minutes kept at those meetings. The difference between written and recorded records are that audio and video can be deleted after four months whereas written records are kept forever, according to Freeman.

 

Although it has its kinks, the law is one Freeman is enthusiastic about. New York was one of the first few states to have this sort of resource for it’s people, and Freeman’s job was, subsequently, one of the first of it’s kind. He’s travelled all over the world sharing what he does with others.

 

He is the man to go to if anyone, and he means anyone, wants assistance or advice getting access to records. “It’s easy to be the man when you’re the only one,” Freeman said.

 

His position is a valuable resource because getting access to records is a process that requires both specificity and knowledge about what one is looking for. Right from the outset it is tough to know, for example, who to ask.

 

Additionally, Freeman said, “I think there are a lot of agencies who are intentionally resistant.” His job is to help get around resistance, and hold people accountable, by law, for denying records. “The laws that we are talking about are based primarily on common sense,” he said. He believes, “everything is open, except to the extent that disclosure would hurt.”

 

“Hurt,” Freeman admitted, is an intentionally vague word. Hurt could mean a lot of things depending on a situation, but the rule of thumb is that if the average person would say it’s nobody’s business, records can be kept private, like medical records. If not, like emails, Freeman said it’s covered and those are records that should be released upon request.

 

With the impending presidential elections in mind, a student asked Freeman what he thought about Hillary Clinton’s emails. He said if she were a state employee, FOIL covers access to her emails, both official and private, meaning the public would have access to them.

 

Since Clinton is not a state employee, her emails are not necessarily covered. He noted that as an issue with the federal act regarding records, and said he does not believe that it is expansive enough.

 

Freeman said he wants to see issues like this change in the future. He said he always strives for a “better law than we have today.”

 

About his career, both since 1974 and about the future of the Committee, he said he views the law as evolutionary. “The ultimate goals never end,” Freeman said.

 

“In the late 60’s in college we sat around the dorm talking about how we were going to change the world…and you find out that if you’re really lucky, you can make a dent. And I like to think that I’ve made a dent.”

 

The UAlbany Journalism Program

April 26, 2016

Enrollment in the University at Albany’s journalism department may be driven less by the program than by the perceived lack of job opportunities after graduation, based on interviews with about two-dozen journalism students.

 

The most passionate among them are enhancing their options by supplementing classes with internships and working for the school newspaper, and they say this is the most valuable learning experience they have had, over their in-class education.

 

Enrollment in the UAlbany journalism program has decreased from 197 in the fall of 2009 to 142 in the fall of 2015. That makes a 28 percent decrease.

 

Kerry Kleinertz, a 19-year-old journalism major, said they are hoping the program will help them be a better writer. Luke Mosseau hopes they can use what they learn to become a film critic. Students also said they are interested in public relations and communications, and various other career paths for which journalism offers some foundations.

 

While journalism commonly refers to specific field of reporting and investigating, that is not all that students hope to get out of it. UAlbany offers a handful of courses that teach other styles and categories of journalism, but its main focus is reporting and newswriting, the title of two of the program’s five required classes.

 

With many students citing the program as a supplement to the other goals they have, journalistic or not, it seems that one of main causes for a declining trend in enrollment may be that the program does not offer enough in the way of other types of journalism. The program does not change nearly as frequently as the field of journalism does, and it does not include enough variation, according to students. “There are not very many courses offered,” transfer student and journalism major Molly O’Bryan said.

 

Rosemary Armao, program director, said she plans to have an exit survey placed on students’ chairs at graduation this May in an effort to adapt.  The survey would ask students how they feel about the program, now that they have completed it.

 

Comparing UAlbany journalism courses to that of Syracuse, Armao’s alma mater, UAlbany seems to offer basic overview classes whereas Syracuse has more specific courses within the sub-categories of journalism. There are seven photography classes at Syracuse and only one at UAlbany, an issue raised by Brittany Gregory, who said she has only “sort of” been able to enroll in classes she is interested in. Syracuse also offers courses on travel journalism, magazine editing, and newspaper editing.

 

Armao said one class she would add to UAlbany’s program would be data journalism, a specified field course, but noted that Syracuse has an entire journalism department, not just a program, so they do have more resources. Still, their ideas could appeal to more journalism students as they cater to specific goals. Honing specific skills in journalism can be useful, but students, especially the six seniors interviewed, don’t believe it is enough.

 

Tameka Abraham, a junior at UAlbany said, “I feel like the program spends too much time on the newspaper aspects and the foundations of journalism rather than helping us understand the world we live in today.”

 

At a journalism roundtable, the six seniors interviewed cite their internships and work on the school’s independent newspaper, the Albany Student Press, as more valuable experiences than what they learned in class. One student, Madeline St.Amour said, “You’ll learn the most outside of your classes.”

 

While it may not be a bad thing that students feel they learn by experience, the most involved and successful students are saying that they learn more out of the classroom. Armao said the new phase of program, paired with communications rather than English, is a much better fit.

 

Armao explained that in 2008 there were a lot of major plans for the program. There was going to be a concentration in science reporting, political reporting, and a visual concentration. Unfortunately, due to the issues with the economy at that time, these changes could not be made. “It’s the reality under new economic conditions,” she said.

 

In the few months Armao has been serving as director, she has been focused on and concerned with retention. “We get students into the program and we’re not keeping them,” she said. According to Armao, this is a University-wide issue. She said UAlbany’s retention rate is half that of other SUNY schools like Buffalo and Binghamton.

 

“Some of it is natural,” Armao explained. As the interviewed students touched on, journalism is a field of learning that you have to be willing to go out and do. “Journalism needs a lot of really dedicated reporters right now,” Nick Muscavage said. And not everyone wants to do it, which Armao says is okay and its healthy to move on for that reason.

 

However, she argued students complaint about not having enough to learn in journalism classes. “You’re crazy if you come in and take only journalism required classes. You do the required classes and then branch out,” she said, “There is a lack of imagination, maybe on all of our parts.”

 

Armao believes the resolution to the issue of non-specific classes is to branch out to other departments. Students who see only one photojournalism class can take an art class on photography and do what is called cross listing. Armao said she is happy to sit down with students and work out what classes they can take in other disciplines and give hem journalism credits for it.

 

“Journalism is a lot about just figuring it out for yourself,” Armao added. The successful journalism students are following that path, and as for retention and enrollment rates, with a new director looking into the issues, we may see new trends in the future.

“Ctrl+Alternative+Del”

April 2, 2016

Ctrl + Alt+ Del is not just the combination of computer keys to quit a non-responding program. This is the inspiration behind the name of University at Albany’s WCDB fm radio DJ Laura Buskey’s evening show.

 

“I’m an alternative rock radio DJ and like I’m kind of controlling the music and I want my listeners to have a say in what they’re listening to,” Buskey said. And so, Ctrl + Alternative + Del was aptly named.

 

Buskey is a 20-year-old UAlbany sophomore from – air quotes – Plattsburgh, NY. “I’m from such a small town that Plattsburgh is like the closest thing anybody would be able to identify me by,” she said. She’s actually from a town called West Chazy, where she graduated with a class of 58 people.

 

“That’s one of the reasons why I chose a big school like this,” Buskey laughed. In seventh grade, Buskey’s class went on a tour of the UAlbany campus: “Little me who hasn’t been to New York City…seeing the towers for the dorms I was like ‘these are skyscrapers!’”

 

UAlbany kept a special place in her heart since that trip, and she said “I’m a firm believer in following your instinct, if I had that feeling after visiting for a day in seventh grade I was like maybe I’ll like it here.”

 

Buskey has been a DJ for WCDB for about a year and a half, and although the atmosphere of the school clicked with her immediately, her experience with the radio station wasn’t quite the same.

 

“When I first heard of the radio station, I definitely didn’t think it was for me,” she said, “I can’t even usually have a conversation let alone like be on air.” Buskey cites her peers as the main attraction to WCDB. When she met some of the DJs, she felt she had a lot in common with them, and decided it might be worth starting the training process to become a DJ herself.

 

“I fell in love with just like being able to express yourself over airways and I’ve been in love ever since. I met some really great people here,” Buskey said, “but like my passion, I definitely found it.”

 

Surrounded by people who inspire her and enhance her love of DJing, Buskey has spread the love herself. A fellow DJ with a news show, Connor Murphy, said about Buskey, “one only needs to look at the WCDB superlative she got.” Buskey was awarded “Station Sweetheart.”

 

Her favorite part about being a DJ is connecting, with fellow DJs-and music enthusiasts-as well as with her listeners. A man from Clifton Park called into her show one night to tell her he loved listening, listens every week and would continue to tune in. It was exciting and heartwarming for Buskey to know people are listening and that they come from all over.

 

Now, Buskey is passing on the inspiration to a close friend of hers, Andy Araya, who is currently training to be a DJ. He said they met last year, and when he saw how much she enjoyed being a DJ, and how it shaped her personality, he wanted to give it a try too.

 

Buskey’s favorite band is called Modest Mouse. It’s a band she said she has listened to since she was young that stuck with her, as things often do for Buskey: “I love experiences like that.” She cited Float On as her favorite song, and Araya shook his head in disapproval saying,“that’s like their biggest song.”

 

At WCDB, a motto to live by is “nothing from the top 40.” Every now and then, Buskey will play a song she really likes, and then notice that some listeners have tuned out. She said, “its like aah, a little shot,” but she tries to learn from those experiences, and build her show for her audience and what they do like. Right now, being a DJ is just a hobby for Buskey- in addition to her love of drawing.

 

Combined with working two jobs, Buskey balances it all with a comprehensive desire to succeed. “I’m very motivated to get my life together,” she said. If she stays in the Albany area after school, she said she’d love to keep up her show because WCDB is a place she feels truly happy and comfortable. But for the future as a DJ, she said,“I’m not going to rule it out.”

 

Buskey is majoring in psychology and English with a minor in education. “A lot of people judge you when you say psychology major.” Buskey joked, saying everyone told her she would change it and that everyone majors in that at first. However, her plans with psychology are so close to her heart that she is determined to be successful with it.

 

“My mom has some mental illnesses so it kind of inspired me from a young age to want to help people like her.” Buskey’s mom has Dissociative Identity Disorder, or multiple personality disorder. “She’s not always her and it was like that thought always interests me…growing up I was always like ‘I want to learn more about this.’”

 

Although Buskey feels she has had a lot happen in life that could have been setbacks, she has always made it a point to persevere. She put herself in an unusual position by going to a big school like UAlbany, and joining the radio when she was even shy to speak, but the uncomfortable experiences are proving to be the most rewarding. Doing things she is unfamiliar with is tough, but Buskey has loved the experience. Now she proudly says, “I’m willing to fearlessly be myself.”

Parking at UAlbany

February 14, 2016

Parking at the University at Albany during peak hours is chaos. Students circle Colonial Quad lot stalking their peers to claim a space, and snake up and down the aisles of Dutch Quad lot in the hopes of making the long walk up to the podium from their car just a little shorter.

 

But that’s the issue, according to Jason Jones, director of Parking and Mass Transit Services (PMTS), it’s just a little shorter. At a school where one of the core values is sustainability, Jones wants to dissuade the campus conception that there is not enough parking and that students have to walk too far.

 

“There is more than enough parking,” Jones said, but, “it’s not on the 50 yard line.”

 

At UAlbany, there are 7,500 parking spaces and 11,000 registered vehicles. Allowing for the fact that not every student is on campus at the same time, Jones is confident that there is sufficient space.  Still, there are a few issues that do threaten that space.

 

On Jan. 14, 2016, PMTS issued an email announcing that the Northwest Gold student lot no longer allowed overnight parking. That is the lot right across form Colonial Quad, where the overflow park when Colonial is full. In an already hectic area, students wondered why this change, further limiting parking, was in effect.

 

Jones reiterated the email that said the change was implemented to aid in snow removal. Last year, the University declared two snow emergencies. Jones said students were notified and asked to move their vehicles. However, many, especially in Colonial lot, did not comply.

 

According to Jones, 17 cars had to be towed. Jones said rather than making students go through the hassle of retrieving their cars from a garage and paying all the fees on top of the towing, being able to take them to a lot on campus is a preferable method.

 

According to Jones, as a preventative measure, the Northwest lot was closed to overnight parking, and therefore, open to opportunity. He said last year, “Colonial lot was unsafe,” due to the cars blocking plowing. If another snow emergency is declared, PMTS can also now direct vehicles to the Northwest lot for effective snow removal of Colonial lot.

 

While this preventative measure may come in handy when the weather acts up, the issue of parking lot lurking for the closest spot remains a reality.

 

To combat that, Jones encourages students to make use of the buses. Shuttles travel around the UAlbany campus and transportation on the CDTA is just one unlimited swipe of a student’s SUNY card away.

 

Jones works closely with the Environmental Sustainability groups on campus and hopes more students will choose to take the bus and continue to lessen the University’s carbon footprint. According to Jones, the CDTA gives over 1 million rides to university students each year, and he hopes that number will continue to rise.

 

He plans to introduce an express route called a BRT, bus rapid transit, which is a non-stop route from Alumni quad, a downtown residence hall, up to campus. This will eliminate the extra travel time students face on a regular CDTA bus that makes frequent stops.

 

And although Jones maintains the hope that students would park farther from the podium, where many spots are open, and walk the difference, he understands that students might not be satisfied with that response.

 

For this reason, he disclosed a long-term plan he has that has been effective at other schools in speeding up the parking process. The idea is to implement sensors at the entrance and exit of the lots that will be able to tell how many cars are there. This information is fed to a screen at the main entrances to the campus, informing drivers of which lots are full and which are not.

 

Though that is a long-term plan, Jones is working daily to improve the experience of the on-campus commute. He answers all of the complaints that come into his email, and he writes back when students make a comment on Twitter or Facebook.

 

Parking and Mass Transit Services is an “easy punching bag,” Jones said, but he wants to “change the perception of it.”

 

Reach Jones at jjones6@albany.edu

Do something that scares you

Sarah Kearns

11 April 2016

There is no feeling more terrifying than quiet. In the absence of sound, my ears compensate with a peculiar ringing noise, as though I’ve just come home from a rock concert.

The room goes on for miles, light-years, as I click the lock, trapping myself in emptiness. Cemented at the threshold, I brace against the handle releasing a deep breath I’d been holding onto from the outside. I dawdle, inspecting the texture of the door paint with the pads of my fingers, waiting for my lungs to fill again.

I finally attempt a courageous gulp, swiftly interrupted by my own saliva catching in my swollen throat. I gasp, pleading with myself not to cough, desperate to maintain composure, and find myself trembling when the fit subsides. I stretch my arm out to the adjacent wall- its closer than I expected- and I lean myself against it, using the last bit of light left in my eyes from outside to slide my roommate’s empty shampoo bottle into the corner with the toe of my sneaker.

The tile is chilling beneath me as I deaden, still panting, into fetal position. The darkness grows with my descent. The cool creeps up my jeans like a current around either side of my legs slowly until it meets at the top of my knees- an unwelcomingly frigid sheath. I press my back into the wall, enough to cause pain, imagining it would mallow out and cradle me like a pillow.

The thought turns sour without a moments delay as I imagine falling through a hole in the wall to my death. I envision my legs flailing, arms at full wingspan, and I dig my nails into my palms, arching my back away inconsequentially, before my mind sees the landing. I try to reimagine it like Alice in Wonderland.

I begin to survey my surroundings in a way I’ve never examined them before, even on cleaning day. I know if I release one hand from the iron grasp of the other and reach down, I’ll touch the grout. It’ll be gritty and I’ll enjoy the texture. But a small part of me worries I’ll reach down to find I can’t feel the floor beside me because it’s gone.

I am isolated in my spot. I am terrified of looking up. I don’t even look up at ceilings when the lights are on. Now that they’re off, though, the feeling that someone is hovering, watching, and waiting becomes certain. And if I look up, he’ll know I know he’s there.

To prove to myself nothing has vanished from below, I scoot an inch to my left. Then another. Then another. I keep my back to the wall, and remember watching my first scary movie with my childhood best friend. Her mom watched with us, and offered me a pillow before it started to “cover my scary spot.” Apparently, everyone has a scary spot. For a lot of people, it’s the stomach, others it’s their hair. It’s the part of you, for no scientific reasons I’m aware of, that you feel most inclined to protect when you’re scared. Mine is my back, and I wish I’d brought a pillow with me to protect it now.

As I continue to slowly inch along the wall, I begin to develop truly absurd quantifications of the room. Anything to keep my mind busy. I find that the door is about three huddled-Sarah’s away from the shower. I wince at the thought of pulling back the curtain, and shuffle myself back, half a huddled-Sarah, into eye line with our ‘porcelain throne.’ Bad thought. My brain runs with that, erecting anonymous threatening figures sitting there before me- I squint my already sealed eyes and rock my head side to side as if to dump the thought out of my ears like pool water.

I know I’ve been in here a while now, and I begin to wonder why I am still so afraid. Nothing happened yet. I’m still okay- my fingers do a little dance all along my body to make sure I’m still all there, kind of like the dance I do before getting in the shower to make sure I took all my jewelry and socks off. I’m all here, though.

In an act of bravery, I begin to chant encouragement to stick my legs out in front of me. It sounds something like the little engine that could. And right when I tricked myself into thinking I was going to do it, the twinkling of my phone alarm from out on the counter begins to ring. I must not have taken a deep breath the whole time, because I felt a sharp pain in my chest when I inhaled, saved by the bell!

As quickly as the wave of relief rolled in did it wash right away again, leaving concern in its place. Do I open the door first, or turn on the light? How many seconds do I have to get from here to my bed before whatever was waiting by the ceiling and behind the shower curtain emerges?

Do I turn on the light and face them? Or lock them into the darkness again, just like any other time? On my knees, I reach my hand up toward the empty space between myself and the wall that holds both the switch and the door.

It hovers there, as I make my decision.“Do something that scares you.”

I adjust my shoulder and puff my chest. I’m aiming for the switch when the air conditioner heaves on, swirling down from the vent above, draping my hand in silky creeping air. Spiders run down my back as I throw the door open, snatch my still ringing phone, and swan dive for the bed.

I am inexplicably, absurdly terrified of the dark.

Fashion Month 2015

Originally Published at  http://www.albanystudentpress.net/fashion-month-is-here/

September 28, 2015

By Sarah Kearns

As New York welcomes the crisp fall air, Kendall, Karlie, Kors and more are off in Milan dressed for spring and summer as Fashion Week is still in full swing.  Fashion Week happens four times in four of the largest fashion capitals in the world: New York, London, Milan, and Paris.

Although you’ve missed New York and London by now, Milan continues through Sept. 29 and Paris will start Sept. 30 and run until Oct. 7.  Those wishing to access the shows without actually travelling – and likely sneaking in to the exclusive runways – may view livestreams provided online, as well as video recaps of those New York and London shows.

In New York, BCBG showed a boho collection with lots of patchwork and mixed patterns, finishing off most looks with chunky, pale-yellow-and-beige suede shoes and striped knitted sweaters, scarves, and leg warmers.  They contrasted the thick knit with flowing chiffon and silk dresses. There was a lot of layering, with long sleeve T-shirts beneath sheer chiffon prominent. Each of the models wore a patchwork hat nearly covering their eyes, and their makeup was bare, making them look fresh and clean.  It will be interesting to see how well those leg warmers catch on in the warmth of the spring and summer seasons, but the boho look is definitely going to be a trend to replicate.

Chunky shoes appeared again at Michael Kors in New York, as well as more flowing chiffon.  The colors stayed neutral in blacks, whites, nudes, with a few orangey-reds featured on high necklines and button-up shirts with blazers.  An obvious trend for the upcoming season is mid-length skirts that hit right around the calf.  Many outfits in the show were accessorized with belts ranging from three inches wide to just half an inch.  Kors also showed some knitted sweaters, so this may be something to look out for.

Oscar De La Renta showed a lot of florals in New York with red and orange tones, colors that are appearing to be the color of the season, along with more chiffon and chunky shoes.

In London at Burberry and in New York at Givenchy, black lace was everywhere, and it was sheer — almost looking like lingerie at times.  Burberry’s dresses had some of the sheer chiffon that was seen in other shows as well, so daring style is a big upcoming trend.

In an increasingly popular way over the past few seasons, menswear slipped into the womenswear collections.  While menswear often influences the structure of womenswear blazers and pants, now male models wear these looks and weave seamlessly in between the women and dresses.

To view the upcoming shows, get information, and stay up to date with live feeds and recaps, visit fashionweekonline.com.

The College Cook

Sean filed through the dish rack searching for a fork…

Or a spoon…

Or a spatula…

Or a knife, at this point.

 

With the victorious enthusiasm of an archaeologist who’s just located a solid-gold hundred-year-old gravy boat, he held the four crooked stainless steel prongs up to the one ceiling fan bulb that hadn’t burnt out yet and examined it for residual crusted food particles.

 

He closed his eyes briefly and smirked, deeming it satisfactory, and took to the pot of spaghetti.

 

“I should be done in a minute,” he said. Sean took a premature bite followed by a slurp of air to cool his singed palate.

 

His lips pursed. ‘What’s missing?’ A long list of spices boarded his train of thought and he considered each as it passed.

 

“It probably needs salt,” he called into the living room where his three roommates waited eagerly, “Do you want to taste it? It might need something acidic like lemon or vinegar…”

 

He added two shakes of salt and whirled it around in the pot to mix. Dropping his elbow, he tossed the whole thing with the confidence of Emeril Lagasse. His roommate Nick came in for the taste test.

 

The experience was temporarily daunting. Sean was in control, something equally empowering and terrifying, all riding on the bite his roommate now chewed. If he were on Chopped, this is when they would zoom in on that bead of sweat charging toward his eyebrow.

 

Though it was just simple pasta, Sean considered with every meal that if it was bad, it was his fault, and if it was good, he could feel proud of himself.

 

Nick announced the results: “It’s good!”

 

The thought train came screeching along the tracks again as Sean remembered the times, more than 10 years ago by now, that his step mom stood close enough behind him to step in only if there was a fire or spill. She guided his early culinary education in such a way that was inspiring without demanding. She let him watch her cook, and when he was ready, she gave him the spoon.

 

With good roots in the enjoyment of preparing food, Sean carried on discovering what goes well together and what foods are quick and easy yet delicious and capable of serving an apartment of college guys.

 

When he opens the butter dish only to find a few crumbs hanging onto hardened yellow streaks left by a serrated plastic knife –eye roll- he fishes out the margarine from behind the stacked, 18-count egg cartons.

 

When there was no buttermilk for the pancakes last weekend, he gathered the two bottles of lemon juice –one is always mostly empty, however that happens- off the door from behind a club-size ketchup. Lemon juice, he said, can be mixed with milk for a similar effect.

 

Sean took the fork back from Nick, and resolved to add one last shake of salt and a pinch of paprika, and killed the burner.

 

“Okay, start getting plates,” he directed, “double them up so the oil won’t soak through.” Plates could be gathered, but they’d have to fend for their own utensils.

 

Using the dishrag no one could remember who had washed last -and therefore couldn’t decide who should wash next- Sean lifted the pot off the stove and scanned through the cutting board, small appliances, likely dirty bowls, and crumpled paper towel for a place to set it down.

 

After shifting his weight and gaze from left to right a few times, he plonked the pot back on the stove. Everyone would serve himself straight from the pot.

 

There wasn’t one piece of silverware left that matched another, the counter was too dirty to clean, and the pot was too small for the amount he made, but still, out of it all bore a little feast of Italian cuisine. And he and his roommates savored every bite.

 

 

 

 

 

Assg. Only one character can speak

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Something like magnets drew my fingers to the cold wooden door, forming a fist as they ascended. I struck it with the impatience of rain when it’s ready to fall, at a near constant, muted patter.

“Asher!” I spat. For some reason, saying it, regardless of if he heard it, made me feel so much more at ease.

In no time at all, his feeble frame in all its sleepy clumsiness plopped down the steps. He revealed revelation in his tired eyes, rubbing them, as he caught my stare through the window, and I felt assured. There was some sort of connection between us. Something let him know he should go downstairs, though mid-night, and that something was definitely not the sound of my knocking.

“It’s going to be okay.” I told myself.

The door glided open and I caught his arm in a vice like grip. He flinched but did not pull away.

“Your bag is still packed, up in the closet.” I was barely whispering, but the words ran out of my mouth like they were afraid of one another.

Asher’s responding expression morphed so clearly like a monster in a bad dream from surprise to dead fear. I knew he would know what I was asking, we had discussed it before. But the panic in his breath asked me if I was crazy.

“They’re going to send me off if I don’t leave myself! You know that.”

Thudding in his chest was his only response. It wondered why I chose him.

“You’re not like them. And I don’t want to be like them, Asher!” desperation cracked through my voice when I said his name.

He grew colder as my words rattled around inside him, I was speaking ice cubes and he was an empty glass.

“I know it’s late and we did not plan this, but if not now, when?” He didn’t catch any of that, but his eyes still widened and filled with understanding. I’d never seen Asher cry.

“You have to come with me.” I was begging stone. I had to do something.

“I’ll get your bag, put on your shoes!” He was numbingly unresponsive.

And then the whole room went numb. A dreamy yellow surrounded us, and the fighting pulse of blood to Asher’s arm opened my grip. I felt my cheeks stain red and all my body stick with needles. My eye’s glare said, “it’s going to be okay,” but this time it was a question. He lowered his head, curled his back and hid his face. It was a no. It was always a no. Mrs. McKenzie stepped straight in between us then, and that was the end of that.