I have been so many different people.
Once I was a girl who walked home with a boy that pulled me into the side yard. Pressed me against the brick just to hold my hand and not say a single word. Boys were always doing things like that with me. Strange and secret, the way for years I never could tell anyone because I didn’t know what they were. Spent years and cheap notebooks trying to put the moments together, trying to make them something better, something softer that people could make sense of. They sound so romantic now, jotting them down in the warmness of night, but they weren’t always this. They used to be something so much more tormenting. To be a teenager always thinking things like, is it me? Are people unsure what kind of route to take when they want to love me? Boys take trains across state lines just to pull me into yards and watch stars and never say what they’re thinking? I know I’m quiet but it’s just that the feelings are festering beneath and my hands don’t know what to do with them, so afraid to damage the sincerity in anything that it’s easier to pretend I’m a bystander even in my own experiences. And I remember staring straight into my neighbors pool, wondering what I should do with the rest of my body, wondering if my mom would see us from the kitchen window, if the boys that smoked cheap cigarettes in the un-built homes down the road would watch. And what would they think of me? I was always wondering, always waiting. I waited for him to kiss me. To say something. To touch me. To press jagged poems into the fence with his palms or my fists. To do something that involved tangling or hands shaking, to take apart the memories of other people I had been collecting. And how astonished I was when he did none of those things. Secretly grateful that he just stared at the sky because it meant that for some single moments I didn’t have to try to be anything I didn’t know how to be. He leaned into me so softly and all I could think was if he knew how much of his body was touching me. I am always dividing that level of uncertainty in everything, picking apart the pieces that don’t make sense and bailing out the ones that do - forever giving them their chance to defy me. And I stood there utterly and wonderfully terrified because I didn’t know where to look and I didn’t know if I could lean in closer, I didn’t know what to do with my other hand or if this was the kind of thing you were supposed to talk about in the back of class with your friends (I never would). Before he finally pulled me away he showed me the stars that made the little dipper. Pointed at them with the same hand that was holding mine so that it was my own fingers connecting one light to the next, like I was making them myself. He told me it was his favorite constellation, and I remember how for months afterwards I would sometimes sneak into the side yard at night. Wondering what it means when boys use your hands to connect constellations. Like you are the road map. Like you are the bridge. What a tragic thing. And how strange it is that a year and a half later one of those boys splitting smokes in the attic of those un-built homes would kiss me. Say that the first time he saw me was that one time I was standing in my backyard with that long-haired boy. He’d ask me what we were doing and for a moment I would feel a strange sadness well up, like for a second I could cry. But then I’d smile and say “I don’t remember” because it’s easier that way. Then I’d go get us some cokes from the machine and when I came back he’d kiss me. right in the middle of the parking lot. I’d drop his change, start to wonder about my hands, and before I could enjoy it he’d say “Don’t tell my girlfriend”. I’d wonder about it years later. Trying to figure out if life was poetic in that way, the beautiful bravely and barely eroding the ugliness. If love was only reserved for things that made sense, that worked towards something greater and less trying. Or if maybe it gleamed, ever so slightly, in the moments that left craters in your gut. How you’d try to convince yourself later that there’s nothing beautiful about them because they’re strange and insignificant. But there’s something about the absolute sincerity in them that you refuse to forget. because you are a road map. You are a bridge. and is that always such a tragic thing?