13 | Rea Frey

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.


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