Olivia Olivia and Kristi Conley

Living Tower, ink on paper – Kristi Conley (Inspiration Piece)



Olivia Olivia


I have a love for quiet, small things. I think of her when I see snails in the rain, or books softly rotting. My friend, my sister: Reiko.

I met her in college after a snowstorm hit the school. Winter of 2005, a power outage affected the campus during winter break. We were both there, for different reasons. Most people cleared out for December, leaving behind dark dormitories, empty hallways, and cars in the parking lot. I stayed because I didn’t love my parents; she stayed because she didn’t have any.

Reiko’s face appeared in a dark window on the west end of campus. Encased in concrete, hidden in the dark, two stories above me, her face shone down on me like the moon. The lights had gone out and my phone had run out of power. It was around dinnertime and I was hungry, lonely. I had no clothes for my first northern winter, as I trudged through the snow my sneakers filled with ice and grit.  Her face seemed impossible to me – who else would be here, I thought.  I often felt during that winter that I was the last person left alive, that everyone had been dead for 500 years, and that sadness was a featureless state, like the snow, like the darkness. You look out into this world and nothing would come back to you. Looking into the snow all you receive back is endless time. You radiate heat; it returns misery. It’s like pinging a radio signal into space. You keep thinking, is anybody out there?

And just the possibility of life is overwhelming. I just felt tenderness seeing that pale dot in the window. Reiko, I didn’t even know her name. Just a girl, another girl like me, left behind.

I found my way up the stairs, inside this empty dorm. I thought everything would be locked, but the hallway was propped open, and a candle was lit at the end of the hall, and I knew it could only be the same person who I saw above me.

I heard music – her music, she was listening to the radio in the dark.  I knocked on the door, and she opened it.

“Are you here too?” she asked – and I knew she meant, here for good, here for the long haul.

“Yes,” I said. “I thought I was the only one.”

The radio, powered by batteries, played news softly. The weather report came on. A severe snowstorm, 8 inches to come, power outages reported throughout the city. She lit a candle – one of many – and set it on the desk next to where I was sitting.

Her movement was gentle and she was not afraid of the situation we were in. I wanted to ask her what was going to happen to us, because her peacefulness seemed so sincere. She genuinely was not concerned.

She asked me if I was hungry. I realized I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I said, “Yes I’m starving.”

She pulled down a brick of ramen noodles tightly packaged in red plastic. She said, “crush it into pieces before you open the bag,” and showed me how she did it on her own bag. Then she opened it, took out the seasoning, and poured it onto the dry noodles. “Now they’re like chips,” she said.

I don’t remember how the night ended, but I remember waking up on the floor wrapped in blankets. She held my hand and looked down gently into my face. How her kindness changed me, how sad I was then to have never known it before. She said I had lost consciousness, and that I was cold as ice. “There was nothing more I could do for us,” she said, “so I stayed here and waited.”


Note: All of the art, writing, and music on this site belongs to the person who created it. Copying or republishing anything you see here without express and written permission from the author or artist is strictly prohibited.