she stands there,
i call her angel,
she does not respond.
met her in art class,
cheeks streaked with charcoal,
my fingers smudged black with carbon pencil,
she had bright blue hair back then.
these days it's more of a rust color,
i say it reminds me of old keys
and she says "Maybe that's the point."
i'm not always sure that she's okay -
some days she has dark purple circled beneath her eyes,
and once she got in a fistfight,
coming to class the next day with a bruise along her cheekbone
and skinned knees.
sometimes she walks me to the subway after,
boots clacking against the pavement,
her jacket collar turned up against the wind.
she watches me go in
and only leaves when i'm out of sight.
once i told her i write poetry.
her only response is "I could have guessed."
paired with a wry eyebrow
one time at 12:42
she came over to my house,
sat on my front steps and texted me
how she knew i was still awake,
i'll never have any idea
but i walked out in black pajama bottoms
and an oversized men's university t-shirt,
and she held a container of ice cream out to me,
two spoons in her hand
we sat out there, in the midst of the night,
eating ice cream and sitting on my front steps
and for some reason, i just wasn't cold
but i was smiling, the soft one i reserve for late times
the only time i've ever caught her smoking
was a half hour before our class started -
she was tucked behind the building,
lit cigarette dangled between her fingers
i remember that's one of the few moments
when i was truly upset with her -
"It's not cool." i told her,
as though i'm parroting school programs
she scowled, and said i shouldn't mind
"But I do." i said in reply, and
all i got was silence in return.
"I care," i had muttered to myself,
head down and teeth on edge
she had shifted uneasily,
crushed the still-burning cigarette
beneath the toe of her boot,
and walked me into class
that day she had smiled as if she'd won the lottery,
and i never quite knew why,
even as her leather jacket smelled like smoke
when i hugged her
she didn't believe in makeup,
but helped me when i went to my friend's mother's wedding.
"Hold still," she had admonished,
holding my jaw with gentle fingers,
and i remember wondering
if this was the only time
she was anything resembling 'gentle'
she hated this city as much as i do,
with a vehemence that could not be tempered by pride parades
and rainy days
"I guess it's not that bad," i told her as we
perched in a tree,
spending our time in a little park
"Not that bad, my ass." she scoffed back at me.
i never told my parents about her -
how do you show somebody a broken diamond
when you suspect that they'll only see coal?
i think they saw her once -
but only as a background, unnoticeable.
just another person.
she was beautiful,
and i wasn't.
simple as that
"You're adorable," she once giggled,
running a hand through my hair
and i had grinned right back
right before i entered the subway station,
she handed me a small tupperware container
"It's cake," she'd explained sheepishly.
true to her word, it held a slice of red velvet cake
with cream cheese icing, a small 'L' made with chocolate chips
i'd thrown my arms around her
and pressed a kiss to her cheek.
and the next day, i brought her earrings - ducks.
delighted by the strange gift,
we'd stared at each other,
before bursting out in laughter
funny how sad people can be so happy.
i knew, on some level.
knew that the girl with the green hair
and the split knuckles
and the homemade cake
was dangerous and unstable
and not safe to be around,
but i guess i just didn't care
a while later, ages after everything,
i'd met her in the middle of the street.
she was just standing there,
leather jacket collar popped,
skin-tight jeans and graphic tee.
she crushed her cigarette as i approached,
clad in yoga pants and a too-large sweater.
"What's wrong?" i had asked,
because her agitation was clear.
craning her neck to look at me,
face shadowed in the darkness of night,
i noticed that for the first time, she was wearing makeup.
vivid red lipstick, she looked astoundingly
like the girl i thought i'd known.
"I think I'm in love with you," she'd said,
lips tilted curiously, eyes crinkling.
i don't know what my face looked like just then,
eyes tired in the mid-night light,
hair a mess, tied back in a bun
but god, i must have been quite a sight.
"I-" stuttering, i couldn't say anything.
"I can't love you." i had said, voice breaking.
"I want to, and I do, but I can't."
i remember the look on her face.
and all i could see was the first time i'd kissed her,
mouth tasting like smoke, hair in a gray halo,
heartbeat steady against mine.
"I'm sorry," we'd both said,
each fleeing our separate ways,
i don't remember which of us ran first.
like fearful and skittish skeletons,
we did not look back,
but i still don't know why she chose that night.
i think it was a full moon.
her eyes used to be like lighthouses,
but i grew weary of this game,
cross-legged on the concrete ground.
she told me once that i have glacier and ghost eyes.
i don't know what she meant by that,
but i see her staring back at me through every mirror.
she didn't show up to art class the next day.
or the one after that.
or the one after that.
or the one after that.
i never saw her again -
don't know if she moved away,
don't know if she ran away.
not even on the street -
no glimpse of the face
i thought i knew as well as my own.
sometimes i think i've spotted her -
a flash of colored hair,
a distinct laugh.
i loved her, honestly.
the best kind.
she's the first person
i ever looked at like that.
she was my entire world,
and i might have been hers.
that didn't stop her from leaving, though.
never fall in love with someone
that you can't bear to lose.