I don’t know if you remember this, but when we first met I was afraid.
I didn’t dare to speak in the way
that you did so easily.
I couldn’t understand all your hidden things:
the drugs and the sex and the parties that I had fun imagining.
You were exhaling smoke
and I was shaking in my pink lace dress.
You were a punk rock princess,
a gothic night queen,
and I was only a silent movie.
The last time we spoke
I told you I remembered the smoke rings you shared with me.
The first person willing to explain the way the world worked:
you taught me how to lie to my parents
and once, when I was hungry, you stole me an entire dinner from the grocery store
complete with a bottle of wine and a chocolate cake.
I thought it was immoral, and I was a little afraid,
but we sat together on the train, feasting on bad karma.
You were the one who taught me
that not everyone is okay eventually.
The first time I played games with my own mind
We were in a parking garage, and the train was delayed.
It was my short-lived rebellious stage,
and I remember you saying I had earned it.
Here are the scars on your wrists I was too afraid to mention:
the takeout Chinese food
and you getting sicker.
Here is the letter your ex-girlfriend wrote you,
which made you so sad that I had to take it
and keep it in a box inside my bedroom
to stop you from lighting fire to your own favorite memories.
You were cocaine and I was a rainstorm.
You told me that you had flushed your pills down the toilet,
and when the police came you gave them a fake name
but they still took you down to jail.
The last time I saw you, I said thank you.
You bought me my first sketchbook
and said the things I made were beautiful.
You were my friend when no one else was
and I was always too weak to help you.
When your mind split into distinct fragile bits,
when you screamed, and shoved your face through a mirror,
I only cried and picked out glass from the space around your eyes.
And now I’m wondering
if I had only tried harder,
if I had only loved louder,
would you still be here?
The last time I saw you
you were fresh out of the hospital
with bandages on your wrists.
You were starving and skeletal
and I could count your ribs through the tight fit of your tank top.
That was when you told me you were having straight sex
in exchange for drugs and vodka and numbness.
I knew you never liked men.
I knew you didn’t ask for this.
The last time I saw you, I took your photograph.
It is hanging on my bedroom wall next to my road map
and when I feel sick with sadness
I still stare at it.
You were always a glowing sort of darkness
but I have learned less
from every teacher and friend and mentor I’ve ever had since.
I don’t know if you remember,
but my hands are still raw from trying so hard to scrub the horror out of you.
And sometimes I am afraid of people
like I was of you when we first met,
but I can still hear you laughing and telling me that,
“Every person deserves compassion and friendship.
So stop staring at those scars, and start listening
You love me, you love me, you don’t owe me anything.
Remember how the smoke rings faded