Message in a Bottle

When we were young, we wrote a message in a bottle and launched it into the future. You fetched an old Coke can from the loft where you slept and a scrap of paper for us to scribble on. I don’t remember what we wrote, but we must have thought it was important. You signed it with your old name, the one you didn’t keep. Now it feels like a foreign object on my tongue.

We gathered on the bridge to drop it over the cleft of the waterfall. We watched it float downstream together, away from your grandfather’s cabin and my grandmother’s farm. We imagined it catching in a tangle of tree roots alongside the riverbank, or being swept out by the current to Long Island Sound. We envisioned it finding different countries, different shores. For years, I inspected every stray piece of litter on the beach. I never found it. I didn’t know it would be one of the last times I saw you. You changed your school. You changed your name. Our lives spun away from each other like a bottle bobbing adrift on the current. But I know that like our bottle, you’re just around the next bend in the river. If I wanted to reach you, I know how.

Eliza Browning

Eliza Browning studied English and art history at Wheaton College in Massachusetts and is currently studying for a master's degree in modernist literature at the University of Oxford. Her work appears in The Adroit Journal, Salamander Magazine, Contrary Magazine, Up the Staircase Quarterly and the Oxford-Cambridge The Mays Anthology, among others. An intern for Brink Literacy Project, Eliza is passionate about expanding access to literary programming and public art initiatives.

Hailey Renee

Hailey Renee Brown is a professional illustrator born and raised in mid Michigan. A former field biologist, she moved across country from Michigan to New Jersey, also moving from science to commercial art. A professionally trained artist, she attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, NJ. She was selected the recipient of the 2017 Norman Maurer Memorial Award as well as the 2019 Joe Kubert Jumpstart Project.