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stephanie flood

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                   BREATHE OUT A TYPHOON

by Stephanie Flood


I’m living in an apartment I once told myself countless times: I’d never live there.

The exterior had this cold, calculating gray-stone bricks mute of personality, that I abhorred. The walls were straight, geometric, modeled the way legos could be fitted in real-life situations. There was no landscaping. The ground exposed loose, unstylish gravel similar to a litter box and used this way too, from the dogs that lived with the owners, who lived in these ghastly apartments. It was an apartment complex that stood out from the rest of the cute, historic houses surrounding it, some houses with decorative shutters, natural wood, picket fences painted white or blue. The houses around looked like friendly cottages, all hugged by an impressive background of Flagstaff’s neighboring mountain range, in the high altitudes of Northern Arizona. But that apartment was an eye sore. It was just so horribly plain.


Seven years later...

I’m living there. Yup. In Apartment 10.
                  On the second floor in the upper left-hand corner of the complex.

My apartment is lavished with comfy, second-hand furniture. There’s a green poster of Bob Marley in the living room. A red tapestry of Buddha is draped on the kitchen wall. Imaginative artwork from talented people I’ve never met are bursting on other walls.

It’s just glorious, mostly because I’ve finally made a home here. A real home.

Also inside is every single convenience that could make me, an ornery graduate student, feel semi-normal. I.e. a digital television screen hooked up to the Internet, coffee maker used on the daily and my own bedroom. I only share this haven with one other person.

Her name is Christie.
Christie is going for a Masters in Statistics.

She’s quantitatively like me.
                  Contemplative and quirky and spontaneously fun.
But occasionally prone to anxiety attacks.


My life at 28 is strangely composed by a List of Impossibilities that I just compiled today:

1. I’m living in the very apartment complex I told myself I’d never live in.
2. I’m in graduate school when I swore I’d never go back to school after getting my Bachelor’s in Journalism. I hated school. I always felt like a trapped animal there.
3. I’m worried about my older brother, who is supposed to be taking a flight from the Philippines (our birth country, because we were both adopted into the same Midwestern family). He’s supposed to go to Hawaii today, fleeing the aftermath of the largest typhoon in history that just hit that country, and I care, even though I swore him off forever.
4. I’m in a long-distance relationship when I’ve always believed that long-distance relationships can’t work. On top of that, I’m just not good at relationships in general.


It is Autumn. I’m sitting outside the balcony in a purple round chair that I bought from a thrift store for $3. I’m sitting in yesterday’s clothes: a black dress. My petite, brown face is tear-stained. I’m holding Albert Camus’ The Stranger as if it were a bible. I try reading a few pages but it isn’t hooking me. This frustrates me even deeper permitting me to slide further into the swells of my own literary, existential crises. I was playing hooky today (again) unwilling to attend this class I’m grading assignments for, as a graduate teaching assistant. I’m suppose to go every Monday. Every Monday, since our agreement earlier in the semester, I have found more and more excuses to not go. Today’s reason was a real credible one, I thought.

Here the email I just sent to the professor just a couple hours before class today:

Dr. Hester,

I'm sorry I actually have family in the Philippines and there's certain issues that have arisen that is creating a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety today. (Regarding the typhoon.)

Will it be okay if I don't observe the class today?

I will of course be in my office hours this week for students needing help and will be able to grade for Wednesday's newest assignment.


He responded kindly and said that I wouldn’t need to do anything else this week.


Let me tell you about my brother Mark Patrick Flood:

Mark’s a short, Filipino guy about 30-years-old now, with tattoos that cover the scars he has on his arms, that he created in his early twenties, from carving a knife into his skin on more than one occasion. He’s post-traumatic. I recall high school with him.

I mostly remember him screaming at me from the living room, his bedroom, the hallways. He broke my favorite toy, a wooden labyrinth, when we lived in Wisconsin.

We were each adopted when we were two. He was two years older than me, and I considered him my big brother. We grew up in Wisconsin. Moved to Arizona when I was 15, he was 17, and at the time he started running away a lot. I learned how to drink alcohol.

We were both born in the Philippines near the mid 1980’s.

I was from Cebu.
                  He was from Manila.

I had a complete set of biographical history that gave me the ability to search and find my birth mother in February 2012. As for Mark, he was left on a doorstep as a newborn.

Because of this, he grew up into a violent-tempered person that no one could get close to.
                  Because of this
                                    he would never have the resources to find his birth family.

Mark wasn’t there for me in life and after my reunion with my birth mother.

He mocked my birth mother’s appearance in an email I noticed one day glaring on my adopted mother’s iPad, after the trip I took in February. My wandering eyes saw that Mark called my birth mother, “fat.” I moved to Flagstaff to start school in August and swore him off.

He cut off all communication with me after that too. Flew off from Hawaii, where he’d been living for years trying to be a chef. To the Philippines. That following December.

Mark stopped talking to everyone when he went to the Philippines, including my adopted mother, the only person anyone talks to. She’s like the family’s 4-1-1.

During his time in the Philippines, Mark could have gotten a girl there pregnant. There was no way to prove if she was telling the truth. Temporarily, I thought I was going to be an aunt. For the entire year of school I purposefully pretending he didn’t exist, I was so mad.

Just this month, Mark decided to fly back to Hawaii and reorganize his life.
Just this month, Mark finally bought a flight back to Hawaii.

Coincidentally, the typhoon swept in. This force cancelled his returning flight, last Saturday.

Since I’ve overheard these plans from my mother, I’ve been struck with impending worry.                   It wasn’t until the typhoon that I realized I couldn’t stop loving him.
That I still cared and I wanted him back safely.
                                     I don’t want anything to happen to him.


The typhoon hit this month in mid-November. It devastated the Philippines. Destroyed the central areas. I saw Youtube videos on my Macbook during many late nights, sitting up in my bed, watching them in horror. My biological family. Any one of those people could be one of them, or my extended family, as Cebu City was also effected by these 200 mph winds. Anything could have also happened to my birth mother or my half-birth brother. I cannot be certain of anyone’s wellbeing, or the wellbeing of this place of my birth, the place I was made, and these dubious thoughts have been unhinging me in the most brutal, unsettling ways.


Coincidentally, I had finally gained the proper amount of guts to write a personal letter to my birth mother after meeting her. I wrote it just last month in October.

I know it’s been a long time.

I mailed it unable to know if the address was correct.
I still don’t know if they received it:

                  Dear Ms. Maru,

I’m sorry it’s taken so long to write you. I’ve been thinking about you and Julius since my visit to the Philippines but have been very busy since then. I also needed some time to reflect on our reunion and my adoption.

Right now, I am in my second year of graduate school for creative writing. I’ve been very busy with my classes. I have also started a teaching assistantship where I am advising students and grading papers too. I have started a job for the newspaper too. Writing is a real passion of mine.

I am so grateful that I was able to meet you. It really means the world to me. I would really like to get to know you and my family members in the Philippines, if that is okay. I think about you all a lot and I hope you are all well.

Please feel free to send me photos and write me whenever you can! It would be great to hear from you. I am so glad to have finally met you.

Sincerely, Stephanie (you can still call me Desiree if you want)


1 (928) xxx - 1742


Stephanie Flood
xxx West Cherry Avenue Apt. 10
Flagstaff, Arizona 86001


I called my Filipino-American adopted friend Benny late one night. He understood my anxiety about my brother and my feelings as if I were being unhinged, as if the very roots of my existence were getting yanked out from the ground. Without mercy.

I called my adopted mother.

All she could do was tell me not to worry.
                  I still have to live the best I can now, she said.
That’s all my birth mother wanted.

                  Get an education. Don’t make the same mistakes she did.


That was the main reason why I decided to go on to graduate school. I got accepted into a creative writing program. Before the reunion, I was on the fence about taking the risk of debt and holding off on a career to continue a life of limbo associated with full-time studies. After the reunion, travel, and creating a short video story about my experience, I moved back to this town to work on myself, in August 2012. Flagstaff, Arizona, home of the Coconino Forest.


I was here to learn how to express myself using the proper outlet.

                                     Writing was the only answer I ever had as an adopted child growing up.

It was the only way I was able to free myself. Without hurting anyone or myself.
                  So maybe I could learn how to write better, I thought.
                                     I could use words to bring forth meaning out of this painful life.
                                     I could whirl my thoughts into a vehicle.

My workshops painstakingly taught me that I’d often give out too much information.
I also didn’t do enough to transform my words artistically.
                                     Like using tropes, figurative language, to propel meaning up & out.

I ended up writing a poem the night after I talked with Benny.
                  I can do this, I thought.

Candle Wax

in the United States
28-years old
brown skin
white insides
red gloss pressed lips
acting reserved
knowing the
ripped apart
birth place
already hit by
in the past
I never knew you
people strangers family
I never knew you
but thought
of you every
these long
up in
watching the
burn colored
until its


Jake is a slim, cute, white surfer guy in his mid-twenties living in northern California. We knew each other from a reggae band he is in. I interviewed him and the band around 2008, but I don’t remember him that much. We ran into each other at a few open mics, when I used to play guitar music. I typically sang about my internal pain as an adoptee.

That’s good I got out of that phase.

We ran into each other at a hippie festival in the woods
                  just this last summer in July this year.


The sky was heavy and threatening to downpour. Jake was sitting next to this table that had a lot of cool Hindu figurines. I was videotaping it to make an experimental video story for myself regarding spiritual journeys one takes on the road of discovery. I do these things to keep myself occupied sometimes. He was wearing a hat and big sunglasses.

I was wearing my own large sunglasses, zebra-printed with dark shades. He kept asking me questions. This made me have to sit down so I could answer them.

I felt so easy around him. He’s really listening, I thought.

I found him on Facebook after of August this year. After a few conversations, Jake unexpectedly proclaimed how awesome he thought I was. We went to his cousin’s wedding together in Phoenix last month in October. Now he’s like my part-time boyfriend.

We started having a relationship status on Facebook at the end of October.

                  Soon, he’ll be visiting me in person for Thanksgiving. I haven’t seen him since the wedding. Knowing that I will see him in person again has started making me nervous again.
                  I was nervous then too. Because I just don’t think I’m ready for a relationship.
I mean, I just think I suck at them. Even though I really like Jake.

Here is a Facebook message I wrote last night:

11/17, 9:36 pm Stephanie Flood

Dear Jake,

I just wrote you a huge letter and erased it. Talking on the phone with you brought up some fears of mine when it comes to being in a relationship, mostly trust issues. I realized that you will be coming to Flagstaff, and I will be seeing you in person, which means I might be getting emotionally invested, and I think that's why I looked restless on Skype today, because now this is making me feel a little nervous/squirmy.

Although I'm really glad we will actually get to hang out and spend time with each other, I think it's so important.

Love, Stephanie

I’m actually afraid to have feelings for him.


Here is an email from my adopted mother today in response to my previous emails that were of me freaking out. I don’t think I’ll show you those.

My mother’s encouraging email response:

It is good to put your nervous energy to good use…always be moving forward. You cannot live your life for other people. When Mark finally does get back to HI he is going to have many problems that will be taking his focus. The most important one is finding a job and his timing could not be worse. He is going to have to find some restaurant that could use another cook..most are already set for the holidays and have been for some months. He has bills he has been ignoring too. So, do not be surprised if he is not communicative…and trust me it is a guy thing. My sisters, your aunts talk with me regularly but my brothers, your uncles do not…only at the holidays. I will keep you informed. Just take comfort in the fact that Mark is not in any danger from the typhoon. And hopefully will be back in the states very soon. If he made his flight he will be landing about 3-3:30 our time. My fingers are crossed!



I passed my apartment a lot, during my undergraduate years of college, unknowing that I’d ever love it. The public library stood a few blocks away.

I liked hiding in the aisles, my brown, curious face bonded to old books, science fiction or graphic novels. My favorite pond loomed in the vicinity too.

Over the years, I’ve watched this natural wonder slowly develop into an educational center for schools nearby. I also had a favorite park nearby, where I’d go swing

even if I was in my mid-twenties and the children would stare and the parents would laugh.
I would smile at them and just swing higher, reaching my toes to the clouds or the glaring sun.

I’d walk around this neighborhood, exploring, relishing how the shadows would fall as I passed the leaning ponderosas, oaks and aspens beside the well-worn sidewalks.

Autumn was my favorite season to meander, the trees set fire with golds, reds, oranges.
Until the trees would be bare and naked, prepared for winter’s invasion.


I’d walk around the street corner and my eyes would be suddenly revolted with the sight of my apartment complex. It was so ugly. So manmade. Without original character. But that was before I got to know it. That was before I lived in it. This is before I turned it into a home.


Seven years later...

      Ugly is just an aesthetic How anything appears to be is superficial There is more to a

      structure than appearance More than how it appears There is eventual purpose to any

      medium All built in the fabrics of life All waiting How you use the building is everything

      You are the reason for its existence It doesn’t exist without you A building is just a

      thing Your body is a vessel Your life is a structure You can make it Shape it into anything

      or Free it Free it Free it Free it Free yourself Erase Start over Call it something else

      Leave it Destroy it Be it Be a force of Nature Breathe it Love it Transform it

Stephanie Flood is currently an MFA Student in Creative Writing at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, working on a metafictional thesis on her adoption experience through experimental and epistolary methods. Stephanie has been a journalist and offbeat writer since 2008 and has been published in "Flagstaff Live," "the Noise," "The Daily Sun," "the Story Shack," "the Journey Magazine," "Mystic Banana," "Hole in the Donut Blog," "Lost at Sea Magazine," and over 200 articles with Demand Studios. You can view her multimedia portfolio here:

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