remember when we were young
and your arms were full of fuzzy blonde
and you used to trace the answers to my questions
on the palms of my hands?
i could smell the nicotine on your fingers,
and in your matted hair that was stiff as pixie sticks from poor teenage hygiene.
at night, we would sit cross-legged in my driveway,
counting stars, my mouth tipped open to inhale
the secondhand smoke of your third cigarette.
i hated smokers, but i loved you,
the way your hands relaxed around the neck of your guitar,
the way your Goodwill sweaters pulled against your Kmart t-shirts,
the way your face hung in the Tennessee air like a smudged stamp of Nirvana’s leading man.
later, after the heartbreak, your soft speech turned hard;
you made rap songs and multiple babies
while i moved to Chicago and got a college degree.
now, i think of you as the first compound love in a succession of failed relationships –
our almost moments, our long, tenuous kisses, our back and forth, our friendship.
the way you rescued me after what happened in the dark,
and held my head when i sliced my thick palms with a blunt knife,
and let me cry into your open mouth.
did i ever thank you?
even after twenty years,
i can still remember the way you looked at me, how it made my toes wag and my shoulders slant.
now, i pluck a single page from our teenage story and speed read. there you are, in biology, begrudgingly
dissecting a rodent. i remember how you tucked your hair behind your ears to bend over that
small, wet rat; how that country ham blush blotted both cheeks while you hummed something beautiful.
today, i crease the page of our forgotten story and tenderly release you back into the wild: to the comfort of
jail, drugs, bad rap, baby mamas, shitty tattoos, and always far, far too many cigarettes.