I asked her—
(Sitting on a lumpy couch,
I was so close I swear I could smell the difference
between her shampoo and conditioner)
I asked her
“did you know—”
(and I hesitated because of course she knows.
I’d be surprised if there was a single thing in the cobweb covered
she couldn’t grasp in her forget-me-not eyes.
I won’t forget, I promise.)
“Did you know you’re made of stardust—”
(But really stardust must be made of her dust,
otherwise how could it shine?)
“you’re made of stardust and so am I and before you
I’d never seen anything that made me believe that
In Memory of all the Things That Never Quite Got Said
Sometimes I like to inhale memories
The brand she smoked.
She left a pack at my apartment
And I have exactly six left—
One for every year I knew her.
With the first,
my memory of our meeting crumbles into the ashtray
Grey and dusty.
The memory of our first words
(yeah, I like that book
oh, he’s great,
and I like that brand of coffee
I have some back at my apartment,
if you’re interested)
fills my lungs.
I feel the tar sticking to my throat,
and I like it.
I’ve got five now,
and I’ll allow myself to remember her tomorrow—
at least one night more.
I exhale my dreams, my hopes, my pale blue longing
into the empty apartment around me.
I find myself walking through the city
In the afternoon.
It’s sunny but the concrete dust
(From constant renovation,
constant construction of the suicide-worthy sky scrapers—
they scrape me, too)
felt like rain
Or a hot shower.
Washing me of original sin,
Replacing it with industrial sin.
I feel the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg watching my every move.
I shake the dust out of my hair but can still feel it in my throat and on my hands and between my teeth.
I take another hot shower.
she said “i’m not afraid and i’m not tired”
so i believed her
and the golden morning echoed
crisp in her eyes
(which are more of a green hazel color
but they’re worth as much as gold, anyway)
(which hadn’t slept in days
but you wouldn’t have known because she wears them with a smile)
and conversation comes easiest at three
in the morning
with three eyes closed and one
on the sunrise
(which was happening
even if we couldn’t see it yet)
she told me to paint the sky
so i did,
i painted it golden-green like her eyes.
and i was surprised when the tornado came.
I. My mother told me
I always had a way with words.
“You talked your way out of trouble every time,” she said.
But that doesn’t explain why in the fourth grade,
I took the fall for stealing a boy’s post-nap cookie,
Despite how many times I said I didn’t like chocolate chips.
Or why, ten years later, I couldn’t talk that same boy down from a heroin binge.
Or, in another week, a skyscraper ledge.
II. I breathe him in every day.
Even though it’s been a decade,
I swear I can smell him on the sweater he gave me in the tenth grade when I was cold at the movies.
We saw The Notebook and both hated it,
But pretended otherwise,
each for the other’s sake.
III. The morning after I inhaled the last of his essence,
I drank tequila with my Cheerios.
It was oddly reminiscent of the morning after I heard the cell phone hit the ground a second before his head
(He was a diver in high school.
Sometimes I wanted him to dive down my throat and put a band aid on my aching lungs.)
—watched him curl into an unnatural ring
(Like the contortionists we saw when he spent his birthday money
On tickets for us to see Cirque du Soleil
After he stopped spending it on toy trucks but
Before he started spending it on the high I couldn’t give him.)
IV. After I saw the caution tape around the last pieces of him,
red like my heart and my eyes and my thoughts,
Yellow became my least favorite color.
And red, white, and blue
spoke death to me.
On the Subject of a Lifelong Friend