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It began as a dare, like so many things. You drag me to my first flashlight-under-chin séance, my first out-the-window midnight breakout. My first shoplifted lipstick.
Things bounce off you, while I have a face they stick to. My midnight break ends before 3 a.m. by a coincidental fire alarm. I’m caught before even leaving the store, lipstick biting my fist. Just get rid of the evidence, you counsel later. Even if they see you they can’t prove intent.
You list off all I did wrong in my pink and white bedroom, black-jeaned legs flung up the wall like a spider, starting and ending with the main takeaway, DON’T GET FUCKING CAUGHT, JESS. But I get caught, T, and you know it. This is us. You, smiling, innocent and forgiven. Me, crying through groundings, detentions and community service. It’s why you keep me close. You like to watch what it’s like to be snared.
I learn to ignore you, press your words so far down my throat I can’t hear or repeat them, like I’ve cut out your tongue. With this silencing you feel the first pangs of rage I do, curling into your bones like smoke.
My finest moment is escaping you and the wind-eaten town we grew up in with its post-war bungalows and parking lots. A midnight bus with a backpack and three Vietnamese buns in my pocket. Move when no one’s looking. Pretend you were never there. Half-smile against the world like a dagger. I learnt these from you.
I erase me too, change my name and zodiac sign every three years. I’ve been six people since that bus, keeping nothing but the raised skin on my arm where you knifed me in retaliation for your tongue.
But here we are, again. You with a loaded gun in your hand. Small but deadly, you say, with that half smile. Was it worth it, you ask as you stare at this place, my seventh since back then, smaller than the pink and white bedroom, spare as good intentions. Your eyes are smudged and your hands shake; time has taken something of you too. Not time, you, you say and back me into your car.
It’s midnight, the time you’re at your best. Wipers thump, stick, squeak against misted half-rain, starry implosions of streetlights. a play in three acts. I still have the scar, I say and roll up my sleeve despite the cold. You don’t look, you stare out the front window like to distant planet. Hair in your eyes like always but you don’t push it back now. Your wildness has grown without me to bear your consequences.
We’re here, you say, and I look for a destination until I realize this is it, this moving car with a gun in my ribs and midnight spilling over the windshield.
This is the place the broken things go. I’m at the wheel but you steer, just like before. I guess I always expected this. You show up one day and put us back together.