My mother told me I could never let go of a baby pink comb. An aeroplane skimming over a cloud, soft as the foam of milk. The feeling of his cheek against yours. Truth is nothing but fodder for an argument. A Senegalese accent is a truffle rolling on the tongue. I hated the sound of a violin but I was in love with a violinist. Poetry is glass. He used to play me songs on the guitar and I was taught to believe in magic. Should love feel like an itchy sweater? I’ll forget 16. The sound of a heart breaking is always silent. Sometimes I heard music and wanted to collect its notes in a sealed jar, like storing butterflies. When we met, I started to write. He left. My father made warm omelettes on weekends. I left, and that in itself was a kind of power. Libraries are meant to be quiet but we were not. Poetry speaks where eyes and mouths don’t.
I can only remember the laughter when it hurt. They still talk about how we danced. Blame it on the Chinese tea. David Bowie will always and never sound the same. You’re having the most fun when the moment’s too blurry for Instagram. It took six years. Marginalia, paraphernalia. I used to dream of this, just like the lights and the car rides in indie films. Those 250 words were an exercise in bonding. Did you want me to…? There was one month left but facts get lost in the wind when you’re running across the field, air ruddy on your face and coat flying out behind you. Jealousy is a corrosive substance. We got in an accident and felt more afraid of the metaphor than the chipped paint. All it took was a tango. Something aches and we’ve all got our hands on each other’s hurt. This is my fight song. I’ll remember 17. ‘Us’ is a beautiful word.
You collected the shiniest shells on the beach. Nothing is lonelier than reading a textbook at night. Solitude by the sea, solitude in a snow globe. My mother told me to think of those below you. Tears are salt are ocean are wombs. The girls said you were bossy and you learned to twist your mouth like theirs. That seagull was like a scrap of paper. I write about being jagged but do not accept it. The colour blue, is it cold or warm? My mother fed me honey and cinnamon when I was sick, hot and sticky on a steel spoon. I didn’t know friendship was an acidic substance. How many followers do you have? The wine looked like blood and tasted worse. She was Ariel and you understood. You are startled by the sky every summer, it is honey blue. She cut her indigo braids then went to write her SATs. Depression is dyeing your lungs the same shade as the evening and she looked at you and nodded. Landlocked countries make us caged birds that do not sing.
My mother snatched books away from me in the car. Both comfortable and uncomfortable with loneliness. Have you ever tried writing while you’re drunk? Novels are alternate universes. The word ‘introvert’ is branded like a red hot poker on a cow. Talk to us, please. I have gazed up at the stars and tried to catch them in my palms like beads. Let’s make a necklace. Noose. You got in a conversation with poetry and it never seems to end. We keep asking each other what love even is. Crying on the telephone. Why are friendships like strings and how could she do this to me? I’m a kid. How mean, so mean. You wore your silence like an ugly fashion accessory that one feels obliged to wear because a great-aunt gave it as a parting gift and it was too impolite to say no. God, no.
My skin was always too tight. The better the chocolate, the more bitter the aftertaste. I am ashamed by inches. He said you were soft and he was not expecting it. No one has been able to touch you. 15 is full of holes and now you will fill them with sugar. Clinics reminded me of the imperfections. I romanticized my own fault lines but at least I was not an earthquake. I imagined him saying that a curved spine is more interesting than a straight one but he did not exist. Can’t breathe when it’s happening. Once you had three slices of cake, you’ve been looking back ever since. He asks me if I need a goddamn sonnet proclaiming my beauty. To be naked is to be free is to be unseen. I scrolled through Facebook pictures and wept. Yes, I need proof, but I do not say it. Fashion is a masquerade. Poetry is a glass. A girl is a price and you are paying it.
My mother kept buying jeans in different colours, only now you wonder what this meant. Speak. You can and will never finish those letters. What if she had done it? A scarf could be the culprit. It burns to feel like this, it burns, that’s how you know. A family trip to the mall can prevent divorce. The top shelf of her cupboard will always be dark. You couldn’t sleep at night, strained to hear noises, you thought she’d do it and dawn would be an ending. Nobody to ask so you ask all the questions on Google. Your mother laughed the most. We played Monopoly on the bedroom carpet. I don’t want him to hate me. You screamed music, then poems, you screamed your own name. Silence is heavy not loud. Love is Paris and he saw it in you while I saw it on an atlas. I once wondered what a language made from the sounds of rain would be like. Eyes are only taps that need plumbing.
He wrote that hell was brown-eyed. She liked books about solitude. I hugged them both, thinking that what we had was like a precious gem in the desert, like a rose in the middle of Cairo. We dreamed of Paris together. Do you remember eating straight out of the sugar packets in the café with the bad crème brulee and French music? I have kept the Polaroids safe. Tu me manques. You can find triads in jazz; we are a triad too. The unholy trinity. One point in London, one point in Abu Dhabi, one point in Gaborone. Three is my lucky number. Will you let me wring the pain out like zest from a lemon? You know I only function in metaphors. I don’t want to be 19 without you. I’m so sorry that it hurts, take all the music you want. Flushed with wine but more from being together. Can we talk about Sylvia Plath though?
So this is how it feels to be bathed by the stage. Blinded, I can see the light. The poetry comes through the cracks. Applause. Thank God tears can’t be heard. I did it, I did it, I did it. The notes are streaming, painting, streaking across the air and it is all for me. Jazz is a palette of colours. Love me. They have said that music can transport the soul and shake off skin. If you are a musician, you must be an alchemist. I hear paintings, I see songs. Mortal to immortal. What is your aspiration in life? Devenir immortel puis mourir. I pin and find my dreams in Google images. 18 will always be radical. I am afraid to say that one of my goals in life is simply to love and be loved.
Painting by Trina Teele, “Edge of Adolescence”