When you were seventeen, you were so broken that when you scraped your leg at the skate park that day, the sight of your blood scared you so much you cried in my arms for an hour. You were a teenage boy inconsolably weeping over a skinned knee.
When you were sixteen, you filled your heart with vodka and your mind with whiskey. You had been drowning for so long you weren’t even interested in the surface anymore. You were my sweet sun from the beaches of California, but you asked me, the New England girl who’d only ever seen the ocean that sunk the Titanic, to be your lifeguard.
When you were fifteen, you were so confident in yourself that whenever the blades tore deep into your paled skin, you wouldn’t bat an eye. You’d promise me that it would heal up fast, no problem at all. Every cut scarred so horribly that you were no longer able to tell the difference between the ones you gave yourself and the ones everyone else gave you.
When you were fourteen, you slept anywhere and everywhere except in your own room. Your parents didn’t care if it was illegal to lock you out, and you didn’t want to be around them in the first place, so you slept on all of our friend’s floors, or in your backyard, if they were mad. You told me it was kinda fun.
When you were thirteen, you dropped your necklace in the gap between your front porch and its stairs, where the wood had rotted away and all the bugs you hated most had moved into. You loved that necklace as if it were your soul, but you couldn’t bring yourself to plunge your hand into the unknown. I watched your anxiety seep into your veins and make your eyes well up, and before I could let my owninsectophobia get the best of me, I bit my cheek and retrieved it for you. I’d never seen someone so grateful.
When you were twelve, you were so baffled by me letting you take the last chocolate milk at lunch that you wrote me an angry letter listing all of the reasons why I shouldn’t be nice to you because you didn’t deserve it. That was the first time I disobeyed someone’s command.
When you were eleven, you were so happy that it broke your parents’ hearts, so they moved you across the country to where the wind blew cold so your soul would turn to ice. You loved the change of seasons. You loved how the leaves would turn the colors of your hair and how the snow would fall so heavy it would cancel school.
When you were ten, you loved the world and all of the living things in it so deeply that you even stopped seeing all of the evils humanity brought to your own home.
When you were nine, no matter how hard he hit you, you would shrug it off like a good strong boy.
When you were eight, you wouldn’t listen to your teachers and you had to sit out during recess almost every day.
When you were seven, you stopped believing in a benevolent creator. You were a tiny little outspoken atheist that liked to wear hawaiian shirts with sweatpants.
When you were six, you always had a pack of those candy cigarettes the ice cream truck sold, and you were always swearing.
When you were five, that was the first time he showed you what color your blood was, and how it can pool up under your skin and cover your body with different sized spots like you were some sad version of a dalmatian.