one day, my friend asked me what i looked for in a person. i considered the question and spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what someone would have to be like to make me love them forever. in the end, i simply came up with a list of things that describe you:
– you were kind to me when i so desperately needed it
– you understood my anxiety without me having to say a word
– you calmed me down just by being near
– you were smarter than me, which was new
– you never mentioned when i didn’t eat, but you always had chocolate chip cookies in your backpack for when i needed them
– you knew what my wounds were from and didn’t look at me any differently
– my favorite thing about you was that when you laughed, it sounded like birdsong
i lived with you for only two weeks during the worst summer of my life, but it was enough. i have never shown my heart to someone so quickly. all the afternoons spent wandering through the woods, lying on the sun-warmed brick plaza while watching the stars, sitting on the porch and revealing one puzzle piece of our lives at a time — i will cherish them forever.
i fell in love in the forest. now summer is gone and so are you.
you should know, i kept all the gifts you gave me. the leather bracelet dyed red as blood, the rocket with remnants of fourth of july glitter stuck to the inside, the handmade keychain made of twisted purple, blue, and red plastic strands; and so, so much hope.
when i hear your name, there are two memories that come to mind immediately. there was the night when you took my anxiety from an eight to a five just by sitting next to me and pressing your scraped up leg against my trembling one, and the evening when the grass around us turned slick and crimson with blood in an instant. there was a knife glinting in the twilight before your cursing filled the heavy, humid air.
i never told you, but that night you spent in the hospital after passing out in your own blood, i didn’t sleep at all. i sat on a picnic table in the dark and cried like it was all my fault while the blood dried on my skin and in my mouth and on the concrete at my feet. no matter how long i showered, i could not wash off the blood, or the guilt.
whenever someone put their arm around me or offered a tissue, i just shook harder and choked out a sob about how none of this would have happened if it weren’t for me. we would be sitting by the lake while the sun set; instead, i was so anxious that i threw up my salad, and you were forcing down pills while a doctor slipped a needle through your slit skin.
tovah and candy gathered me on their cabin’s moss-covered porch after your oldest brother drove you to the hospital. they’d known you for years, they told me, and the boys in your family do dumb things when they’re trying to get a girl’s attention. sometimes that means seeing how many barbecue sandwiches you can eat in one night (your record was eight). other times it means doing a knife trick while walking and cutting your hand in two places. it’s not your fault, they told me. he just likes you, and he’s clumsy, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it.
but, i think. but, if you hadn’t asked me to walk down to the lake with you before everyone else got there, and if i hadn’t agreed, you never would have had your knife out in order to show off. if only i had said no, you would be ok.
i remember how frustrated you were when you got back from the hospital with stitches in your knuckle, glue on the severed tip of your thumb, and a clunky cast on your finger. you were late to breakfast all week because you couldn’t put on your glasses yourself, or lace up your hiking boots. i saw you shake with anger after the twentieth camper asked what you did to your hand.
that’s why i sliced open my palm one morning and soaked my half-eaten apple with blood: so people would leave you alone. they stopped staring at your cast, switching to cradling my hand and running gentle fingers over the bandage.
i still have scars on my palm from that day. if i see you again (and i pray that i will), i know you will have a deep cicatrix on your skin as well. i wonder if you think of me when the phantom pains make it ache.
scout, i know i never loved you. but, listen — i could have. oh god, i could have, and when the seasons change, i hope you come back into my life with the new summer. i left you last july without a kiss or even a goodbye, and when i lie awake at night, i think of what words i could have used to make you understand how i felt about you: the feeling of almost.
i know that i don’t know you that well, but i know i’ve been missing you like hell. (i know // motherfolk)
i wrote this in class when i couldn’t concentrate on anything else. a boy who loves me was reading over my shoulder, and now when my friends laugh, i see him tilt his head and listen for the one who sounds like a bird singing to the sun at dawn.
(unfortunately, scout doesn’t live here. which is a shame, because he flirts by sharing pictures of his cat, mr. kitty.)