She grew up on rotted rose petals. Chasing basketballs and boys and finish lines, fighting to move forward, to earn praise.
She doesn’t cry in court when her mother sits there, hard, unmoving. She cries in the bedroom of her friend after school when no one is watching and she remembers the rejection on the faces of the people she needed the most.
She carries bruises on her thighs like lilies to a funeral. She bats her eyes to make men kneel and hopes to live on seduction to afford her dreams. Everything gets farther away.
She blooms regardless, fighting past choked down tears and fingermarks on her throat and threats and screams and bloody knees and she moves forward.
Still, she dreams of rotted rose petals. Sticky and smelling of decay, wrapped around her legs and arms and chest like weights, moving to cover over her face.
He measured his worth in strength. Caught between almosts and maybes and sometimes, he sat still inside of caution to avoid being called out. He built friendships of stone. Sat friends upon monuments and worshipped beneath them. Who cares what fathers need in desperate times or wish they didn’t have or what they regret? He considers himself well adjusted even though nothing seems to hold him or push him or move him out of the void he lives in. Only one step further to the goal and he fades away. But he convinces himself he can stop bullets, he can build stone walls to keep out the bad, to hold off the bad and keep close the good. The feelings of longing for connection, for honesty for everything given to be returned. He nurtures his ego only to be shattered. To learn that bullets find their way into his fortress, that bullets can take strength from a person like waterfalls can make canyons.
I grew up on a glass pedestal. Eyes wide to the elegance of being, then forced shut. Don’t look here. Don’t run there. You might fall down. I remember the feeling of strangers in the room next door, the creeping crawling feeling of realizing they can open your door and even if you scream they can push aside the dresser. Nothing makes you safe. I felt weight in words I only half believed ground me.
If only I could be prettier, taller, smarter, faster.
Jokes are words made into anchors.
I feel like solemn jokes. The ones I crack about myself. The size of my forehead, the weird things I think out loud the speed of my words. I feel the canyons on the edges of the place I live, the drops off the throne. I can see the wounds I will sustain when I fall down them.
And they arrive like a wakeup call, uninvited. Entering the space beside me like future lives and past sins and dancing around my bruised ego and my cowardice. Then, they push me into the canyon. I have never seen the bottom. I have only hovered above it, watched it from afar and trembled in fear. They hold my hands.
And just in case the world crumbles around us, we teach each other to build stone walls in our hearts, keep out the bad and hold close the good and promise each other the world can’t find us here.