Yearbook Write-Up: Carina Morente

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It’s her eyes you’ll notice first. They’ll gaze at you with their sweet, sweet iridescent glow — chocolate in the night, honey under the light. But as captivating as those eyes might seem, there’s more to this girl than their alluring gleam.

Cai — creative, colorful, and compassionate. A true artist, whether it’s a paintbrush in her hand, a pen, or a badminton racket. With a Midas Touch of some sort, she can turn the most unsightly thing into art. Dive into the oceans painted before her, and soar across the sky sewn above her. See what it’s like to be perpetually inspired by the world. The true beauty of her eyes isn’t in their lustrous glow — it’s in the way they manage to find magic in everything and everyone they see.

It remains a mystery, however, how the one thing she remains incessantly blind to is her own self. Drawing strength from the happiness and encouragement of everyone she holds dear, you’ll have to remind this girl a few couple of times that she is more than enough, she is more than enough — you are more than enough, Cai. And if you’re really convincing, she might just start believing you on the hundredth try.

One day, though, Cai will finally open her eyes, and see herself for the first time — with confidence and dignity. She’ll see the compassion that tended to a handful, the beauty that captivated hundreds, and the talent that inspired thousands. And when that day comes — when the artist finally realizes that she, too, is an exquisite piece of art — she’ll be an unstoppable force not to be reckoned with. Because an artist inspired is one thing, but an artist inspired by her own self is another.

Disclaimer: The photo isn’t mine.

More Than Just Punctuation Marks

I remember the first letter you ever gave me — the one you wrote shortly before you asked me out on our first date. You said our after-midnight car rides going home felt like comfy punctuation marks at the end of drawn-out paragraphs. I smiled to myself for the next few days, taking comfort in the fact that you felt the same way, that you enjoyed those light-hearted one-on-ones as much as I did.

We pored over each other’s lives with burning curiosity and bashful restraint. You told me about your violin recitals, and how you struggled with stage fright. You told me about your love for classic Russian literature, and about your favorite book: The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

In return, I shared with you some of my stories, as well. I can’t recall half of them now, but I do remember how easily my tongue untied for you and slipped off words I never dared to let anyone hear before. I remember hoping you couldn’t see me smiling in the dark, hoping I was keeping my composure while you, that cute upperclassman with the glasses and the biceps, sat just inches away from me. I remember the sinking feeling I would have in my chest once we got to the parking lot — more so when we would part ways in the elevator. I would go to bed night after night wondering if it could ever get any better than that, if we would ever amount to more than just placid endings. And we did.

Eventually, you became more than just punctuation marks. Your name saturated my sentences, and left me with paragraphs that started and ended with you. I found myself in a brand new chapter — one set in an ideal world, with the ideal man. I never wanted it to end. I would hold my breath at every space, every line break, and every page turn we’d stumble upon. I wavered between the eagerness to start a brand new day with you, and the fear of finding myself alone in bed the next morning.

I’m not sure if you noticed, but I kept my guard high up, as I have learned to do so from my previous relationship. Never trust anyone, never turn your back for just a second. Secretly, I waited for the catch — the bitter icing on top of this sweet, sweet cake. You were too perfect to be true, too perfect to last. I knew I’d eventually have to wake up from this enchanting dream and face the harsh reality of this harrowing world — that all good things must come to an end. But that moment never came.

Instead, each day greeted me with the gentleness of your smile and the warmth of your arms. I woke up each morning more hopeful than the day before. My fears unfolded into confidence and eagerness for new beginnings and new chapters. Ultimately, you stopped being the words to my sentences, and became my muse, my inspiration. I stopped writing about you, and started writing because of you.

I stopped trying to make sense of everything, and just gave into it. I accepted your love without the questions and the scepticism, and let the warmth encompass every last bit of my tarnished soul.

It was the love I so longed for — a love that isn’t selfish, a love that doesn’t demand attention. It’s the kind of love that sets me free, the kind of love that encourages me to chase after my own dreams without feeling guilty, because you, too, are out there busy pursuing your own.

Your love has become my home — the safe haven that patiently waits for me at the end of each day, and pushes me out into the world the next morning to be the best version of myself. You are the kind voice that assures me that I am enough — that I am more than enough.

In the fourth of your series of letters, you wrote to me, “Let’s revel in what we have and believe, without doubt, that it will grow into something wonderful, in spite of imaginary odds — promising or otherwise.” My darling, look how far we’ve grown. Look how magnificent this all turned out to be. For you were once just a tiny question mark resting quietly on a page of my book — and now, the dedication on the very first page.