250cc’s of MEAN

Somewhere between St. George and Flagstaff

It’s high time I discuss the fifth most important thing in my life: my bike. Like many riders out there, my bike has become so important to me that I think about her on a daily basis, and as hard as I try not to, I tend to refer to it as her.

I’ve had my Kawasaki Ninja since 2011, and I bought her – err, it – as a street virgin, if you will, with 0 miles on her. I’ve never owned a car, and she was it was my first vehicle at age 18. For three years I’ve almost exclusively driven that bike, and to anybody’s credit but especially a motorcycle, three years with me is a challenge.

My Kawasaki Ninja has endured 25,000 miles with me, over long, hot desert roads and under storming winds and rains with temperatures below 20 degrees. She’s become more than a street bike – she’s become a touring bike; a sports bike; and in a few scenarios even an off-roader. And apparently, also a her.

My bike has changed a lot over the years. No longer shiny, she’s covered in scratches and holes in her fairings, her fuel gage no longer works and random lights turn off at their own will. Only I am to blame for my bike’s blemishes, but in my eyes, these scars are not flaws but rather odes to the adventures I have experienced with her. I cherish these characteristics because I see much of myself in them.

Just like my Ninja, I am no longer complete as I was when I was born. Life has taken chunks from me and scarred me up and random imperfections appear on me daily, and although these flaws come with far more criticism on my own body, when mirrored on my bike I manage to celebrate her increasing uniqueness.

Additionally, my Kawasaki Ninja only has 250cc’s. This, to many riders and even non-riders, is a point of ridicule and puts me in a position to be judged as an amateur rider.

And sure, she tops out at 90 miles an hour (on a steep hill maybe we’re struggling with 65), and she sounds like a bicycle with a queen of hearts card rasping against the spokes, but she is far from an amateur bike and I am far from an amateur rider. Together, I know no matter what challenge awaits us, whether it’s on a street or not, we can succeed. You can crowd us with traffic; surround us with bolts of thunder and pellets of hail. You can burn our skin and fairings with the desert sun or starve us from water and fuel; you can even take away our directions and our asphalt. We’ve been through it all already – together. My Kawasaki Ninja is 250cc’s of MEAN, and I’d trust my life in her seat more than any other vehicle.

Visiting Hours

Visiting Hours

Two Page Love Story by G. Z. Kieft

I leapt from the balcony and the cold night air did its best to hold on to me. The wind whipped my hair against my forehead and I saw the approaching ground in increasing detail. I closed my eyes. I smiled. It felt like I was flying.

Three days ago, a woman entered Southwest Hospital in her pajamas. Her blonde hair hadn’t been combed in days and the bags under her eyes were so deep you could swear they holed up some of the tears she had shed the night prior. She gripped around a Styrofoam coffee cup tightly, and as the door to the hospital closed behind her, a nurse approached.
“Ms. Winters.” The nurse smiled.
“Hey Maggie.” The woman responded, and she forced a hollow smile. The nurse passed her and whipped out a cigarette, and Ms. Winters continued down the pale fluorescent halls. She turned the corner and passed the visitors’ desk. She walked along the pictures of kids playing in meadows and holding dandelions with phrases that read, “Hope” and “Happiness”. She made a right, then a left, a second left and finally up a set of stairs. She followed this hall, passing rooms with little white erase boards under the room numbers. The little white boards had names written on them: Jeremy Sanders and David Newville and Holly Caston and Kevin Ming. Then to the left, a door with a small whiteboard under the numbers 287, and on the whiteboard was written “Martin Winters” with a smiley face.
Ms. Winters was the mother of a boy diagnosed with acute lymphocytic Leukemia.
“Hey.” She smiled as she entered the door.
“Hey.” I replied. I had been watching cartoons on the TV that they left propped up in the corner of the room.
“Did they serve you breakfast already?” Mom asked.
“Yeah.” I nodded, smiling. My mom’s eyes kept focusing on my forehead, and I instinctively rubbed my bald head self-consciously. “Mooom.” I groaned, uncomfortable.
“I’m so sorry.” Mom caught herself, and she cupped her hands over her mouth. “I’m so sorry, I know you hate that.”
“It’s okay.” I said quickly, but it was too late. Those fragile eyes cracked under the pressure of her tears. She sat down on the bed next to me and she leaned over to hold me while she sobbed. I didn’t blame her. I mean, it was hard for me to have to deal with it – to deal with seeing her so sad, but I couldn’t be upset about it. It had to be hard. For me though, happy days weren’t so hard to come by. See, recently a new patient had been admitted to the hospital residency with Leukemia. I’d like to tell you that I would never wish Leukemia on anyone, but to be honest, one more person with Leukemia meant I was one person less lonely. The patient, however, wasn’t just another person. Her name was Madelyn and she was gorgeous. They had already shaven her head by the time I met her. Unlike Holly, Madelyn refused a wig, and the first time they rolled her through the halls in a wheelchair I was already in love. I snuck into her room one night to ask about her. “I’m Martin.” I said.
Madelyn propped herself up on the bed and invited me to take a seat. “Madelyn.” She responded. “You have Leukemia too?”
“Yeah.” I nodded, smiling.
Madelyn’s bright eyes struggled to hold back a few tears. “Aren’t you scared?”
I shrugged. “I’ve had it for a while. It’s not that bad, really.”
“How?” She chuckled skeptically.
“I mean, some of us have Leukemia. Others get mugged on the street and some people get in car accidents.”
“The world sucks, I get it.” Madelyn averted her eyes to the ceiling and the tears tumbled down her round cheeks.
“No, it’s more than just that.” I shook my head. “I just mean that world is busy. It’s random. It’s wild and unpredictable and a lot of us don’t have it that good. But I think that’s the point. Of this – of all of this. Is to make the best of what you do have.”
Madelyn refused to adopt my point of view, arguing with me all night, and I loved it. Every night since then I came to her room to discuss things – all things. Sometimes I thought she would take an opposing point of view just to prolong our conversation, and I was more than grateful for it. We laughed so much. We’d get snuggled up under her blankets and relive memories from our childhood. Sometimes we were brave enough to talk about the future. We compared chemo sessions together and even bragged about the size of our veins. Something about her presence made everything in that hospital better. One night, Madelyn told me she had discovered something.
“What?” I asked her, excited.
There was a light in her eyes, a spark of life that I hadn’t seen in her before. “Follow me!”
We snuck through the halls and up several stairs until we arrived at a short hallway leading to a set of French doors that opened to a balcony. Through the windows of the doors I saw all the city lights, and I looked at Madelyn in awe. I asked her how she found it, but she only shrugged and opened the doors, letting in a strong breeze that pushed my hair aside. We stepped with our bare feet out onto the balcony and Madelyn closed her eyes. We stood in silence for some time, before Madelyn smiled.
“It feels like we’re flying.”
That hospital went from being a lonely, cold deathbed to being the place where I met the love of my life. I often pretended to myself that I wasn’t twelve years old – that I was ninety-eight instead and had lived a fulfilling, successful life and was just hanging out in a retirement home with my wife, Madelyn. The prospect did a lot to lighten my day, and the only time my mood dipped was when my mother came by. No matter how much I told that lady not to worry and to just be happy for me, she remained miserable. She was scared. I understood that. Scared of losing me.
“What if I promise you?” I told my mom as she sobbed over me.
“What?”
“I promise I will never let Leukemia take me away from you.”
My mom shook her head and only cried more. Under her breath she whispered, “You can’t promise me that.”
That night, I had had just about enough of my mom. Agitated, I left my room to go complain to Madelyn. I snuck into her room, like I always did. What I hadn’t noticed was that her name had been erased from the white board.

I cried, digging my face as deep into her pillow as I could. Her scent was still on it. All that optimism drained from my body, and it was deep into the night when I decided there was only one way to find the best in this situation. Wiping the tears off my face, I made my way through the halls and up the stairs, towards the balcony Madelyn had shown me.

Hamster Wheel

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We fight and hate for hype and praise, we idolize the tight grip placed on us by states and thus we stay complacent, pray and trust the USA, the great, the strong, we play along their traits and jobs, we just fit in, like slaves or pawns, we just admit to graze the ground, we suck at it, so they’re blaming us, we’re failures, we’re lazy butts and aliens, for wanting something different, we’re paid enough to stay quiet, and so the chain continues, like a hamster wheel spinning till it’s breaking at the hinges, we’re responsible for stopping this, sparking out contingents that singe it, we’re singing like we’re winners but the failure lies in thinking that the end comes with a fresh beginning.

Young Love

Young Love

Two Page Love Story by G. Z. Kieft

The old rain-worn shutters rattle under the pressure of another storm: a casual encounter in the cloud-clad city that is Seattle, Washington. My forehead sits pressed against the window, each wrinkle of excess skin collecting at one point as I fog the glass with my warm breath. I exhale deeply, coughing once at the end, before pulling away. In my absence the window portrays a little balloon of fog, and I smile my crackly old lips in satisfaction. One shaky index finger later and suddenly the window is smiling.
But something special happens as condensation takes its toll on the smiley window, and suddenly tears stream down its fog cheeks. Tears, then, erase its entire existence, and before I know it all that is left is a window without a face.
Well, not entirely. In glimpses I can catch my own reflection but I quickly turn away, soured by the prospect that I am… an old fart.
Eighty-seven and counting. You’d think a bus could’ve hit me by now. But no, here I am, alive and not so well. I manage my way through the kitchen, and in the living room sits my wife. She’s really old too, just like me. Everything’s sagging everywhere. It looks like we’re made of wax and somebody lit a candle on our heads. As you can tell, I’m not too happy. Every day I look at the picture of my wife and I that we’ve posted on the fridge, and I think of how happy we used to be: so young; so vibrant. We used to be so in love. Now look at us. Every time we look at each other we nag at each other. We complain about pain and call each other names. Sometimes I think she hates me, which makes me think sometimes I hate her.
I don’t know. A bus sure would make all this easier.
I open the fridge and look for my soy milk, which I cannot find.
“Ell,” I call.
No response.
“Ellie!” I call again.
Nothing
“Eleanor!”
“I said what?” Eleanor’s voice finally permeates through the walls.
“Where’s the milk?” My voice sounds like an old scratched vinyl.
You finished it!” Eleanor strains.
I mutter something even I don’t understand before leaving to grab my coat.
“I’m going to get some more.” I tell Eleanor and I exit the house.
Outside. This place sucks. As if walking wasn’t a struggle enough, the wind is constantly trying to sweep me off my feet and the rain is spitting in my face. I hate it. I hate it all. I turn to cross the street to the grocery market, when out of nowhere a sensation similar to getting hit by a bus overcomes me.
This is because I am actively getting hit by a bus.
There is pain in every inch of my body, throbbing through my veins and cascading between my bones. I feel worse than I ever have before, but then, suddenly… The bright white lights of heaven shine on my face. I reach out my arms – for I can see my arms: young and fresh and not as veiny – and I’m ready to be taken by my Maker. But the light dims – in fact, it condenses all into one small light bulb, and I am sitting in a little café. Warm chatter and the aroma of espresso alarms me and I look about myself a bit shocked. What’s going on?
“Are you okay?”
My heart, which had been beating quite normally up until this point, suddenly goes up in pace. I turn to my left and I know exactly who I am going to see.
“Ellie.” I say in utter shock.
Eleanor is sitting next to me, but she is not as I saw her just moments ago. She is young, with her floral blouse and long skirt and her brown hair drawn back into a bun. And she is smiling at me.
“You look like you just saw a ghost.” Ellie chuckles.
I chuckle awkwardly with her and quickly look down into a mug of coffee placed on the table in front of me, and I see my own reflection. I too, am young. And boy, am I handsome! Whatever is going on, I already like it better. Ellie and I talk, just like we used to when we were younger, and I am having the time of my life. I am enjoying myself quite a lot. That is, until I mention one of our beautiful grandchildren, Thomas. My sentence sounds like this:
“Thomas would’ve loved that.”
It was in response to Ellie as she explained that she went swimming in the lake. Thomas, our eldest grandson, loves swimming and has longed to go swimming in the lake, which we have always deemed too dangerous. He also loves football and action movies and has a special place in his heart for Ell’s spaghetti and tofu meatballs. One time he ate them so fast that he had a tummy ache and we were up all night watching infomercials together.
“Who’s Thomas?” Ellie asks.
My heart aches at the question. I quickly shrug it off and shake my head. “Nobody.”
We continued on as if nothing happened, and I do my best to avoid any of our life experiences. It feels strange, suddenly. Talking to a woman that looks the way I remember my wife, and yet she sounds nothing like her. Nevertheless, we proceed in conversation and I try to ignore the slow agony which is creeping its way under my skin. I feel so lonely – all these experiences and I have only myself to know them with. We finish our coffee and a young blonde man comes to take our cups out of the way.
“Thank you.” I tell him politely.
But the man makes no eye contact with me – he stares only at my wife, at Ellie. Surprised, I look to Ellie and am shocked to see that she, too, is looking at the young waiter. And as a surge of jealousy overcomes me I am suddenly reminded of this day: this was our first date.
In my old age I had fantasized about this day many times, remembering how perfect we were. But talking to her now… was pointless. This woman was not the woman I had created memories with. This woman was not the woman who had sworn her commitment to me. This woman was not the love of my life.
Not yet.
I blink, and suddenly opening my eyes is a struggle. Pain reemerges and I feel how fragile my heart is. I squint to block out some of the bright, white medical lights when suddenly a familiar face enters my view. I see the wrinkles and the saggy skin. I see the glaze over her brown eyes and I see her thinning, white hair. I see the marks on her hand of lipstick she considered putting on before rushing out to meet me in the hospital. I see her hunched back and her dusty clothes and her veiny hands. But as tears form in her kind, knowing eyes, I see something far more meaningful than any of that.
I see my wife. I see the mother of my children and the grandmother of my grandchildren. I see the woman I have spend over sixty years with.
In her eyes I see my soulmate.
And suddenly, all is right again.

There’s 20 Of You!

I found out today that 20 people have followed my blog and that makes me pretty excited. I’ve been a closet writer* my entire life, and critique comes the harshest when it comes from one person, especially when that one person hates my guts and especially when that one person is myself.

I’ve peeked into so many blogs and I can’t believe the caliber of person following me. Writers and poets and artists. Talented people with an actual aptitude for literature.

I’m honored. Thanks guys.

-G. Z. Kieft

*Closet writer, e. g., someone who writes books and then reads those books and then vows never to write again. Then writes again.

Samantha.

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The very word sends shivers up my spine, rivers that rip in like scissors through life, thinking that, grinning yet seriously shy, her face is the prison; the inmate’s my eyes, she’s pressing my buttons one smile at a time, I’d love to make love to this perfect design, god I’m so lucky, so lucky, sublime, she’s molded her body to perfectly fit mine, my oh my, she’s god in the sky, she’s clouds and the angels and the rays of sunshine, she’s the waves in the ocean, the heat from a fire, she’s made from the same stuff that created desire, and she’s full of this love for me, full of this light, she’s filled to the brim with the will to just thrive, she’s perfect, she’s earth-less like stars set up high, she floats over mortals with a smile for all life, she teaches me, breaches my pain and my lies, she peeks in my soul when she looks in my eyes.

JULIET, part 2


JULIET, part II

Two Page Love Story by G. Z. Kieft

Based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet

Romeo had slain Tybalt and was the cause of Mercutio’s death, news that shocked me even if it didn’t sadden me. I wondered how Juliet was faring through this, and my answer arrived to me later that night.
The moonlight narrowed into the halls through the small, arched windows, and it casted my shadow on the opposing wall. I stood before Juliet’s chamber, and curling my fingers into a fist, I knocked on the door.
“Juliet?” I called.
The door suddenly swung open, and Juliet faced me. Her expression was strewn with unknown determination, and she had a weird sort of smile on her face.
“Juliet.” I said again, upon greeting her.
“Peter.” She said. “Come in.”
My heart pounded against my ribcage, and I forgot for a split second how much pain she had caused me. But what excitement spilled from my heart quickly poisoned to shock as, when I entered the room, I caught sight of an elderly man I did not know.
“Peter,” Juliet spoke behind me. “Meet Friar Laurence.”
Juliet explained a wicked plan to me. She exposed every feeling she had had in the past few weeks, and her plans to be reunited with Romeo through the faking of her own death by a faux poison. My distrust of the Friar Laurence was halted by Juliet’s sudden, unending dependence on me.
She said, “Peter, I need you.”
And never had I denied her my assistance. I had promised her and myself that. She could always count on me.
So the plan was that I would travel to Romeo and explain to him that her death was not real, and through me Romeo would know that Juliet was safe and would be reunited with him soon. I left early the next morning upon horseback, racing over the hilly countryside to the destination the Friar had divulged to me. But a disgusting mood befell me then; a popular toxin that has often decided man’s fate and it was jealousy. As I rode my horse, I thought suddenly that maybe I shouldn’t deliver this message. That maybe Romeo should learn of Juliet’s death and he should grieve and perhaps he would indeed leave Verona forever. And Juliet, then, so distraught Romeo chose not to show up for their meet-up, would return to her old life. With Romeo and Tybalt out of the picture, perhaps I could finally announce my infatuation with her and then… then Juliet and I could live happily ever after.

I did not deliver the message to Romeo, and instead I returned back to Verona, where commotion leaked over the streets like spilled ink. Juliet was dead, and only Friar Laurence and myself knew the truth. A felt a twisted pleasure in this, but it was always accompanied by a guilt so large in disturbed me. I was walking in the alleys at nightfall contemplatively, accompanied by whatever evil had possessed me, when I heard the echo of hooves upon cobblestone. I peeked out from the alley into the street and saw a hooded figure, clad in a deep brown cloak that hid any of its possessor’s identity, upon a black steed. But as the horse passed me by without notice, I caught a glimpse of two, bright eyes filled with sorrow only few men have known. I stood in the alley in shock. Romeo had come back. Despite everything, Romeo had come to see her.
Suddenly worried my plan had failed, I ran through the streets at his heels as fast as I could. Juliet had been placed to rest in the Capulet crypt, and upon my arrival I saw two horses tied to a nearby tree. Who else was here? I rushed to the door and noticed it stood inched open, and before bustling through I pressed my ear to the cold wood.

“Ah dear Juliet…” I heard Romeo whisper. “Why art though yet so fair?”
The misery in his voice was debilitating. I pushed open the door slightly and peeked in. The candlelight inside cast large, dark shadows in the crypt. I saw Juliet, lying atop her tomb lifeless, and Romeo on his knees at her side. He wept, and in his bloody hands he held a small green vial. The blood from his hands trailed some ways in my direction, and I saw a slain Count Paris on the floor.
“Here’s to my love.” I hear Romeo say, and with it the sound of a cork popping from its glass source echoed in the halls.

It was poison.

“Stop!” I yelled. “Stop!”
Romeo turned to me in sudden shock.
“Who are you?” He managed between his tears.
“She’s not dead!” I rushed into the crypt, my blood boiling with anticipation.
“What?” Romeo said, lowering the vial.
“She’s alive yet!” I said. My eyes left him and settled on her perfect, still face.
Her cheeks were rosy with life and her lips dark pink. She was very far from death.
“What is it you want with her?” Romeo stood up to me threateningly, and realizing he was still aligned with suicide, I smacked the poison vial from his hands.
“She’s not dead.” I told him.
I returned my eyes to her and longed to touch her. I longed to kiss her still, peaceful face. I longed for it so much, but with Romeo’s dramatic heaves in my ear I was persuaded otherwise. I looked up at him and clasped him on the shoulder.
“Serve her well.”
Romeo’s flabbergasted face was the last thing I saw as I turned away to walk towards the exit. Through the echoes of the crypt, I heard Juliet grumble awake and Romeo’s consequential gasp of shock. I wanted to peek back, more than ever, but as I reached the door, I slipped through the crack and never saw the lovers again.

What agony lost love brings is salved in the satisfaction of a clear conscious. What would have happened if I hadn’t been there? Would Romeo have killed himself? And then what would have become of Juliet? I would never know these answers, and I was better off for it. Still, as I wandered the barren gardens of house Capulet, where Juliet used to talk to the flowers and read beside the fountain, I felt a gaping emptiness. I settled myself on a small bench, sighing as I was wont to do, and I closed my eyes at the sun.
“You’re Peter, right?” A voice startled me and I quickly reopened my eyes.
Flanking me from the left was a slender brunette with a face quite familiar to me, even as the name escaped me.
“Yes?” I responded.
The girl neatly took a seat next to me.
“I miss her.” She said.
“Juliet?” I asked, and the girl nodded.
“You’re a Capulet, are you not?” I squinted.
She nodded again, and she smiled.
“Forgive me, I am horrible with names.”
To my surprise, she chuckled. “You were always preoccupied with Juliet.”
“I wasn’t…” I began, but she interrupted me.
“Our secret.” She assured.
I stared at her in wonder for her brave approach. A sudden appeal became her, and all I could managed was to stare awe-fully. She noticed and looked away before smiling.
“I’m Rosaline.”

JULIET, part 1


JULIET, part I

A Two Page Love Story by G. Z. Kieft

Based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet

Her velvety pink lips, slightly parted as she pressed a red-dyed beeswax stick to them, were a stark contrast to her smooth, olive skin. Her raven-black hair crowned her oval face in wide ringlets, and her hazel eyes remained on herself in undisturbed focus. She was Juliet: the single most stunning creature in all of Verona, and to me, in the entire universe. I stood loyally at her parallel, ready and willing for any of her demands, as was my job as servant for the house of Capulet. For the detailed painting of her face, she arched forward so she sat almost pressed against her mirror, an act I had observed many times prior.
“Peter,” She said. Her voice always alarmed me.
“Yes?” I responded immediately.
“Will you fetch Tybalt for me? I believe he had some say over the ensuing ball.”
“Of course.” I bowed my head and neatly retreated the room.

The house Capulet was enormous, and with the ball tonight it was bustling and busy with servants and workers aplenty. I zipped through the halls, my palms sweaty with anticipation. I had never enjoyed speaking with Tybalt – he knew my infatuation with his cousin, and due to my status in the household he was disgusted with me for it. Little did he know that Juliet was the source of infatuation for more than half of the household here: he was lucky that I was actually her age. I turned the corner into the west wing and overheard a group of girls talking about Count Paris, and my heart sank. If my status was a hindrance to the possibility of courting Juliet, than Paris’ status was a definitive boon. He was older – far older than Juliet, but despite this he sought her hand in marriage and had asked for Capulet’s permission. Capulet, thankfully, had the right mind to postpone it two years, but he nevertheless invited the count as well as his Prince friend, Escalus, to the ball tonight. I felt sick to my stomach with the prospect of losing Juliet to anyone, much less someone like Paris.
“Peter!” I heard, and I reared my head to meet the source of the call.
It was Tybalt. His cropped hair and wide jawline were trademark of his rough personality and as he neared me I clenched my jaw.
“Yes sir?” I bowed my head.
“Where is Juliet?” Tybalt demaned, looking over me as if I wasn’t there.
“In her chamber.” I responded. “She sought your counsel, actually.”
“Good.” He shoved past me and kept walking. “Why don’t you help the preparation of the banquet?” He added loudly.
“Of course.” I responded cooperatively.
I hated that guy so much.

Night fell over Verona like a warm blanket, and the streets near the house were bustling with the cozy chatter of inebriated partygoers. I stood near the walls, away from the dancers and rowdy noblemen, and Sampson and Gregory stood with me. We observed the party and watched as various men and women made fools of themselves. My eyes, however, were plastered on Juliet as she danced with Paris. That’s when it happened. Amongst the pillars, in the shadows, I caught a glisten of two bright eyes and a smile as crooked as the very face that displayed it. Under a messy, curly mop, a street prince I knew to be related to the house Montague stood, and in his face I read mischief. He stared at Juliet, and his gaze lingered disgustingly on her moving body, and I automatically drifted away from the wall and clenched my fist.
“Hey,” I tapped Sampson on the chest. “Look.”
Sampson followed my gaze and saw of whom I spoke. “Is that…” His voice trailed off.
“Romeo of Montague.” I gritted my teeth.
Little did I know then that my inaction on the situation would cost me far more than a night filled with jealousy. The party ended, and over the next few days, Juliet remained secluded from the rest of house Capulet. She refused to see me, even as I delivered her food to her, and I spent many hours pining under the starry skies in the courtyard. Then a day came when Tybalt asked me to come into town with him.

“Why?” I asked, shocked that he would seek my company.
“To kill Romeo.” He said, and I cocked my head to the side puzzled.
I hadn’t thought of the Romeo since the ball, and the Prince of Verona had forced a temporary pact of peace between the houses earlier this month. What spurred this on? I reflected my thoughts to Tybalt, and he explained to me the situation. He told me how Romeo had snuck into the ball and how he had secretly married Juliet. Married Juliet. Married Juliet. Eyes wide and lips parted, my heart sank. I was exasperated. What? Romeo and… and Juliet? No… No, no, no. Eager to discover the truth for myself, I agreed to follow Tybalt into battle. We gathered up some of the other house members and took to the streets. The filth that is house Montague lazed in the town center, talking amongst themselves and laughing. Tybalt challenged Romeo, but Romeo refused.
“We are kinsman.” Romeo smiled. I was frustrated with how handsome he was. With how perfect his voice sounded.
But Tybalt wouldn’t have it, and ultimately he fought one of Romeo’s friends, Mercutio. Sick to my stomach of the unfolding events, I left before I could discover the outcome, crumbling into one of the lonely alleys the city of Verona is popular for. I dropped my head into the cold cobblestone street and my tears fused my face to the ground. My world was falling apart. Everything I did was for Juliet. Everything I thought was for Juliet. Everything, and she… she didn’t even see me.

The next day, I woke up in my room and simply stared at the ceiling. I wondered if it was even worth it to wake up, but when I heard commotion unfold out in the courtyard, my curiosity led me up and encouraged me to get ready. Upon leaving the house, I saw the Prince of Verona, Escalus, stand on a podium constructed in the courtyard. He was accompanied by several guards, and when he spoke, the crowd grew silent. He said a whole bunch that I drowned out, but eight words echoed in my brain clearly and precisely:

“Romeo is to be banished from Verona forever.”