I had no will and she had no grace.
We never went
to prom together.
There was no serious talk
of a child.
She never wanted
in my pants
and don’t dare call her
delegated to a secondary syllable,
a slur’s tagalong.
but never a hag.
We don’t hug
or coddle each other
with concern flowery like
the mumus her grandmother gives as gifts to
females of the family,
with empty questions like
how are you or wastes like
good morning or good night.
We much prefer to mingle in
the socially-awkward humour of quirkiness, to
mangle and disable what we remember of
sign language and past friendships that couldn’t survive
us, misfingerspelling witty one-liners
about existence or God’s girl-like clingy need
for praise and validation,
to send or receive the
occasional text message,
are you going to hurt yourself today,
usually content with the quick response,
absolute and believable.
The day before her thirtieth birthday
she gave me a gift:
the dented casing of a bullet
gingerly resting on her doorstep.
She called me, amused.
I was expecting this,
she said. I guess this means
my youth is truly dead.
it’s not that I enjoy her tragedy
but that I enjoy her reaction to tragedy,
the chemical response in her brain that says
when life hands you lemons
you’re allergic to lemons
and now parts of you will surely swell.
She bites into war stories like I bite into a cheeseburger,
her salty grease the proof of pain beyond herself,
she hasn’t eaten in days, books double stacked around her,
we joke about it the way we always do with
pathology or cholesterol,
we laugh at the horror,
instead of acknowledging
it’s just another way
of almost cutting herself in two,
I dip mine in ketchup
as she sinks her teeth
into more red meat.
When she takes her Ambien early
and calls me to say, slurring her words,
she’s watching infomercials
and parading about
in a t-shirt and high heels to strengthen her calves,
I tell her it’s perfectly normal -
perfectly normal in the context of
and a deep love of shoes.
She asked me
twelve years after graduation
if I’d fooled around with Michael.
Of course I did, I replied
and she was jealous.
He had a shirt that said
must be this tall to ride.
She missed it by an inch.