I am a girl with her insides scooped out.
I am a shell.
This is what you have done to me:
I was not always a shallow girl
who spent hours painting and unpainting her nails
in the hopes that color will fill in her black-and-white.
You were that color once, and I haven’t forgotten.
I still love you.
This is the same body you once held.
And can you remember that?
We were the night sky, and I could count constellations
out of the scars on your skin. I used to say
“tell me the story of your scars,”
and you would give me your sins until they became mine.
Now, I carry those sins alone, and I still love you.
I loved you when you whispered stories or made promises.
I loved you when I felt your hands on my hips, so strong yet uncertain,
like my body was something you had faith in.
Those hips have stayed the same
without your hands sculpting them,
When I brush my hair in the morning I feel afraid.
You used to brush this same hair with your fingers,
and now it is still just as long and brown and wavy,
without your fingers to weave in and out of it.
When I first realized I love you,
I called my best friend and I cried and I said, “this is why art exists.”
But now love is the noose around my throat.
Love makes food harder to swallow,
and simple words don’t seem to work around my mouth anymore.
This is the same mouth that met yours so often.
Now I am constantly sick, and only sickness
can pass through my sacred lips.
Do you remember how much I used to love the word sacred?
You would ask me why I said I was spiritual if I never worshiped.
Your body was my church, and I would kiss your holy temple like a saint.
These nights I say up praying,
and I visit church on Sunday.
I still love you.
What I didn’t love was all the dirty words you spoke,
but I listened anyway because they were yours.
I didn’t love your dirty lungs.
Your kisses tasted like bitter excitement.
Your eyes were glazed red and your thoughts came out funny.
These were the days when you still laughed, and you laughed often.
I didn’t love the stars you swallowed to keep floating.
They were white and red and spilled like bugs
from the orange bottles you bought.
They had names I couldn’t say,
but you spoke like a pharmacist and explained the language to me carefully.
You cut it down to slang so that I could understand,
but I still did not see
what was happening.
The stars were tasteless. Most nights you would crush them
and snort them in clean lines.
I didn’t love the bags of white powder.
They were pure like a midnight snow,
or like crushed bones. You called them holy,
and after your throat went numb
you wanted to touch me.
These were the days when you still touched me.
Nothing was pure anymore.
The world was made of little white lines and dollar bills.
You formed a little white line between us,
and I stopped calling you back.
I didn’t love the needles.
I hated the needles, and I was afraid of them.
They stabbed you like swords until you exploded.
You threw up onto my skirt,
and I had bought the skirt to make you think I was beautiful again.
You threw up on my carpet, and in my bathroom sink.
I didn’t mind, because it was a part of you.
One night you came stumbling down my brick driveway,
and your brain seemed smeared like wet paint.
You crossed every line that night.
Do you remember waking up my family?
Can you remember anything at all?
I wouldn’t speak to you after that.
You left me sobbing voicemails that I replayed a hundred times.
Some said “save me, save me! I need you!”
Some were angry, and they said “fuck you; you’re a filthy slut.”
I still saved the sound of your true gospel music,
and these days I stay up listening to them while I pray.
Eventually the voicemails stopped coming.
Nothing much has changed since then.
I did not love when they found you,
cold as stone in the basement of a man who I had never met.
Your skin was like ice,
and your bloodstream had turned into little white lines of powder.
When they found you, you had been dead for hours.
The man who owned the basement hadn’t called the police;
He was the one who took your dollar bills
and sold you an hour’s worth of escape.
I didn’t love when you crossed that final line.
You swallowed sin until the world was an illusion.
You invented a world that no one could live in,
and so I had to invent you.
They sprinkled your ashes in the river
and your mother didn’t cry.
These days I spend a lot of time at the river,
and I love you more than I did ever before.