On the corner of 19th and Mission, Shawn Cotter arranges his grey jacket on the handlebars of his girlfriend’s scooter. A cigarette between his index and middle finger, he turns to me with a good-natured smile. 

“I was living in New York, but my girlfriend got a job offer and was living here,” he explains, “I moved here back in May.”

“I do sculpture—like clay or stone. But I’m still settling in and [I’m] just trying to find out where to start.”

He pulls up his right sleeve to reveal the words, ‘While I breathe I hope,’ etched into his bicep in black ink.

“These are my family’s words. I’m not sure where the exact origins of the motto came from, but [my aunt] tracked our family history back and found our code of arms and everything. Once I heard that that was our family motto, I thought that’s excellent because I generally try to live by that.”

At present, he said, he’s jumping from job to job. “Whenever it starts to really get me down, I think, just gotta keep carrying it on. I’ll eventually find something that sticks.”

Aleka A. Kroitzsh

Aleka A. Kroitzsh grew up in Mumbai, India and now lives in Berkeley, CA. She is an English major at Dartmouth College and is passionate about poetry, hiking, and travel.

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