Witch-bred crows collect on the power-lines and
their cloud-gray wings match the eerie sky above.
Girl, your parakeet-yellow scarf is the only color
in this whole weepy Monday-morning setting.
As the bus drives up a slightly better-looking neighborhood
than my own, I catch a glimpse of your wheat-blond
hair peeking out from beneath your newsboy cap and
immediately, I search my brain for something witty to say.
When the wheels finally stop rolling over pot-holes;
cracks in the road, you climb up the steps
of this weekly valley-school transport.
You meet my gaze only because I'm right in front;
sitting in a 1998 seat, holding nothing but a CD player
in my hands, a raggedy backpack lying at my feet.
But to my surprise, you inch closer and don't
just assume I'm “bad news”, try to find
a normal-looking person to sit next to.
No, Heidi, for the first time in years;
you acknowledge my existence and even tap my shoulder,
asking that I move my bag, for you to slide, inch closer.
I yank out my earphones upon hearing
your Betty Boop soprano humbly pleading.
And of course, I do as you ask because
you're lovely, Heidi; because even
though I had you pegged for a snob,
I still can't kill the fantasy of us being friends,
the one I've had since we were twelve.
All Pokemon cards and stickers; bubblegum wrappers
and secret diary entries,
I've always wanted this gap bridged between us.
Heidi, you remember, don't you; the day
that your older sister had to pick you up from school early
because you'd cry yourself sick?
You told me as I escorted you to the nurse's office,
that your dad had just left town,
forgetting all about his wife and daughters.
Sweetheart, I still don't know why you chose
to share that with me all those years ago.
I mean, we were never really close..
Your mom knew my mom before
she passed away and sometimes
she'd still say hello to me at the supermarket,
smiling awkwardly between
watermelon stands, but that was about it..
We'd never really crossed paths,
never stayed for a half minute
in each other's line of vision.
But for some reason, you trusted me with
such a special part of you;
so vulnerable, your true out-of-this-world,
non-plastic, whole-grain emotion.
“Maybe it was just a moment of weakness,” I told myself.
“She was upset and you were there.”
But still, you opened up unexpectedly;
and ever since then, I've craved more of that careless,
tragically sugar-sweet sincerity.
And years later, weathered yet
rose-tinted, this memory still stays with me.
Oh you might see me as pathetic maybe..
Heidi, your friends at school certainly do.
They think I'm meant to drop out and say
I'm nothing but a ghost from a rundown
neighborhood, a mill-bend part of town.
Oh I hear it all the time; that I'm worth less than
their Journeys sneakers, America's lowest teenager.
But “Stop projecting pity!”
you say one afternoon as we ride the bus together
to a summer program, volunteer work.
“My pals are worried; they just want
what's best for me,” you claim and I know
you're giving me that distrustful glare,
because you know why I'm really here.
I did something bad, see; it was either this or juvy
and you wanted me to admit, honestly.
But fire-catcher, I didn't want to give you the satisfaction.
So “No,” I responded evenly.
“I'll kill your curiosity now, girl.
I didn't stab anyone with a blade
or threaten to bomb our school.
I didn't steal a car or get into a fight, believe it or not.
Sunflower-darling, what I did was
spray-paint the word 'Hypocrite'
on the wall of the administration building.
I trashed the dean's pristine office.
You roll your dark walnut winter-eyes and mumble,
“That's not far off from what I had imagined.”
Oh but I know, Heidi, that you're secretly relieved.
I smirk because you were honestly terrified
that I was beyond saving.
“Why should I care?” you shrug.
“You judge my crowd, I judge yours.
What goes around, comes around.”
Then it catches my eye; a soft scar,
half-moon gash below your collarbone.
My eyes travel down the V-neck of your poison-berry blouse.
I murmur, “I guess you're right..”
To my surprise, your cheeks flush hotly
and you turn your Sabbath-eyes away.
We ignore each other for the rest of the trip.
As months pass, red-orange leaves fall and
get caught in your wheat-blond strands.
You sit on the bleachers, watching a football game.
There's a plaid blanket thrown over your lap,
a cup of hot chocolate in your frozen dove-hands.
You're wearing a strawberry beanie that I know
your mother knit herself; so adorable,
a marker in a sea of blue and white-clad seniors.
And when one surly 18-year old marches up the steps
and asks you out to the winter-social, girl;
I have to admit I'm just a little bit jealous.
“It's all fun and games,” I remember reading
this quote somewhere. “Till someone falls in love;
falls hard on concrete and can't get back up.
Oh it's all easy-as-breathing; cherry-top pretty
till you can't wipe the mess of paper hearts and
confetti-scandal, glittery trash from jean-clad knees.”
Oh so true, but I didn't want to believe it..
You were, in my head; just a popular girl with insecurities
hidden beneath layers of candy-cane makeup, Abercrombie
sweaters and irresistible good looks.
But there was so much more that I was leaving out;
so much more that I was reluctant to see because in a way,
you were right about me putting up a front, as well.
We all do it, I realized later in life when we were all
'grownup' or as adult-like as we would ever be with
jobs we hated; ties and briefcases, bills that never got
paid on time and let's not forget; frozen TV dinners.
“Oh boy,” you said meekly.
“We all wear invisible shades, whether they're Gucci
knock-offs or drug store plastic glasses pulled over
our very-real cosmic lids.
The truth is, we'd rather go permanently blind than
let our vulnerabilities show.”
Oh how true your words were..
But still, I kept my mouth shut and failed to tell you,
all because of some egotistical clone; living inside of
me, breathing hatred for your dollhouse world.
But now, what does it matter,
princess of Carolina storms?
If I found your number and called you up
after all these bottomless years; wasted seasons
guzzling down Irish coffee
to keep moving along, would you let me apologize
or would you smirk, girl?
Would you forgive me for all those meaningless,
childish arguments in the school parking-lot?
It's a little too late, I think.
But that's not what you say when
I find you one winter night,
standing outside the auditorium,
even though it's snowing violently.
You were shivering, your bare shoulders visible
beneath the jacket that your date had carelessly
thrown over your summer-nymph form.
“Twenty minutes in and that fool's already drunk,”
you mutter to yourself, unaware
that I'm standing so close; perfectly capable of
hearing your complain about a guy who was already
at the punch-bowl, dipping a ladle in the spiked
coral mess of fallen stars.
“Well, that's what you get for dating a jock,”
I declare and you turn your head.
Noticing me for the first time that evening,
your dove-chocolate eyes narrow
and you ask stubbornly,
“What are you doing here?
I thought you hated this Wonder-bread facade..”
And I do but I shrug, taking a cue from the ice-queen herself.
“Maybe I'm bored as hell in this cow-town.”
But you roll your eyes, of course.
You don't buy my cheap excuses and I can't blame you..
The truth is; I've had this nagging feeling
in the pit of my stomach, a burning itch on the back
of my neck all day long.
Girl, I know you'd be wasting, not only your time, but
also your carefree romance; unforgettable
beauty on someone who would always take your life,
your dreams for granted.
Oh Heidi, I can't have that, after all these years.
Misunderstandings aside, I guess I really do care.
Deep down, just like you said,
I was like everybody else; lost ever-blind, confused.
But standing there, my eyes traveling over your form;
all decked out in a navy fairy-gown,
I had to admit I was glad that
I hadn't listened to reason earlier.
I was glad that I'd given in to temptation and driven
to that boring school-dance.
You were exquisite, honey;
silver butterfly clips in your hair,
glitter on your eyelids
and a snowflake charm tucked
in the hollow of your throat.
You were not worth passing over for anything,
Heidi; for any amount of liquor,
or freshman tart in lilac-gold.
And that cheap plastic “ballroom”;
a corsage hell in the making, all those streamers
and pretend-friendships melting
with the ice on car windows,
I never thought I'd be there;
among people I'd always considered enemies and
thinking that you, the queen of a black-ribbon
hoax was the prettiest,
deadliest thing I had ever seen.
Heidi, you smirk, try to say something
but I offer you a cigarette, instead.
“Here,” I murmur, stepping closer.
“You look like you need this.”
And you smirk, sigh and shake your head.
“Pebble-beach boy, I don't
suppose you'd want to dance?”
Now I'm the one smirking.
“I've got a better idea..”
Before you know it, we leave that sand-dollar event.
Hopping in my poor excuse for a car,
we whoop as we drive off.
Twenty minutes later, we're on the outskirts of town,
heading towards the state-line.
“Do you trust me?” I can't help but wonder out loud.
And you laugh, ask me if I'm Aladin
or something else Disney-inspired;
weird and unlikely, sweet to dream about.
“Because a magic carpet-ride does sound romantic but
the thing is; I'm done avoiding speed in
a desperate attempt to fit in.”
Then you turn your head, look at me with
a Brave New World gleam in your eye.
“Boy, I feel like embracing my fears for just one night,”
you respond to the silent question I was secretly asking.
Oh and that Iowa-run dawn,
would you regret it later on?
Did you really trust me, Heidi,
or were you just looking for danger;
somewhere nearby, convenient?
“Well, that's cruel,” you scold me
for being rude, in the unholy
wake of our meeting; second-coming
like all those legends about
Jesus, watering-holes where Alabama
preachers try to drown their
most devout followers in greed, swamp-moss.
I'm crazy-wicked but it doesn't matter..
I'm losing my mind, even though that night;
we were as close to heaven
as we'd ever get in the deep, dark south.
Oh and it was glorious, even as we sang off-key;
sipping cheap Wal-Mart wine,
sitting beneath the aging town-sign.
At one point in our conversation about how much
we hated living in a forgotten place,
America's heartland, broken and bent;
you unlaced your shoes, girl, threw them at the banner above us.
I laugh, genuinely surprised by this
random display of trash-talking, teen rebellion.
I'd never seen you so riled up with prism emotion; the fine line
between crying and laughing, pulling
at the corners of your mouth.
And you declare fervently,
“I hate this Blue-blood law!
Babe, I hate the crossroads
of this dial-tone nation..”
We're stranded in the middle of nowhere;
gas is low in the tank in the middle of
a cornfield, no less.
But even with no cell-phone in sight,
surprisingly I don't mind..
Surprisingly, you've got me laughing,
trying to impersonate wicked, bad rock-stars.
I've found a song on the radio that
has you staring out the window; all dreamy-eyed,
vintage siren-like, in love with lyrics soaked
in powdered sugar and dusted off with
notes of coral-toned sea-glass reality.
“I'd give up forever to touch you,” you murmur quietly.
Not even two weeks pass and I know
I'm caught in your net of casual,
yet royally-fucked love affairs.
Don't get me wrong; I never thought of you as
a carnival slut or a spring-fling tease,
dunking boys in the water when they'd try to
'rescue' you from fake-drowning.
No, girl, I never thought you were so cruel
but what I did believe; wholeheartedly, was
that you didn't think anyone was good enough
to be your masked-Zorro soul mate.
“Maybe you're right..”
And is it obsession?
Is it something so beautifully strange
that I'm feeling; tugging at
the rational part of my brain, wanting
to ignore it completely?
Yes, I did feel tempted to see past it,
in favor of playing catch
with your doppleganger;
your island-witch, Ursula-self.
But even though, we started off
on the wrong foot like so many
matches throughout history,
it was amazing how little I cared
about what was said and done
in the name of popularity, all that
high-school, pep-rally bullshit.
No, because when I drove you home
after gymnastics practice,
you asked me to come inside your wedding-cake
white; Colonial two-story
at the end of a golf-course, lined neighborhood.
And I was honestly surprised;
shocked that you'd let me soil the doormat with
my scruffy coal-mine boots as you led me through
the entryway, up the stairs to your bedroom.
Heidi, when you opened the door and led me into
your secret starlet domain, I thought,
“Damn, she finally trusts me!”
Moss Point resident, valley-spirit; you don't
know how exhilarating, intoxicating that felt..
“Oh, silly boy,” you chided as we sat on your bed.
You unexpectedly ran a hand through my hair then.
“Why do you always imagine the worst?”
But I couldn't tell you the truth, could I?
Back then, I couldn't tell you that I'd seen
worse demons in the real world than
you could ever picture with those dollhouse-eyes;
leaping off the pages of crisp-as-autumn-leaves,
coconut-paper fairy tales.
I could never tell you any of that..
It's why I held my tongue when you said,
“Maybe we were both wrong.
Maybe all this nonjudgmental; clean-cut innocence,
hide-and-seek magic isn't dead, after all.
Our old playground is all rusted now;
but the memory's still there, right?”
Heidi, you leaned even closer,
tracing my jaw-line and cheekbones
with French-laced fingertips.
That day, you were full of surprises;
weren't you, my December incarnate?
“Let me tell you a secret,”
you whispered conspiratorially.
“Those purple chalk-games; hopscotch
and wicked rhymes we once spelled out
on the pavement, even though
the rain washed it all away,
I carved our initials in the wood of
the gazebo by the lake.”
And I can't help but ask,
“Why did you do that, when?”
For a moment, you're silent, girl.
You seem to be rolling the words
on the tip of your tongue.
Then you say them out loud,
“I did it right after the funeral..
See, I thought maybe someday, we'd go back there.”
You drop your hand from my face,
try to move away but I still pull you closer.
Your lips are hesitant, yet mine are thirsty,
Cedar wood, cinnamon-toned; careless, yet
still, you don't push me away and I think;
Is that wise, Heidi,
the right timing, nothing fake?
Wild; blackberry-smeared, we don't care..
You push me down on the wildflower mattress,
straddle my midsection; one leg
on either side of my hipbones.
Girl, you unzip your gym hoodie and
peel off the Mamie-pink sleeves
from your winter-sun arms.
You surprise me with how impossibly sexy you are..
“Oh don't look back,” I think
as our lips heat up, Paris-starved.
Heidi, my heart beats wildly
between shallow, moon-pool breaths.
We strip off all our clothes
as an after-thought, almost.
But why not make the moment last?
Heidi, we're unapologetic; blameless,
vulnerable, yet we don't give a damn.
With slanted sun-rays, 5 PM slides
down your spine as I press my lips
between swan-lake shoulder-blades and
over the dream-catcher tattoo that
you got without your parents' permission.
“They'd scold me,” you giggle shamelessly.
“They're convinced that I'm turning into
a wild-child; rebel skank, all because of a little ink;
a little culture; non-white, moon-dust sparkle.
Oh and boy, they think you're a bad influence.”
You continue as my tongue runs over the star-shaped
freckles dotting the nape of your neck,
as though they were drops of southern
sweet-tea quenching the unbearable
thirst in my sandpaper throat.
And you groan when I suck
a flower-wound on your honey-brown flesh;
so exotic, half Menominee,
half French aristocracy;
unforgettable, without question.
But when you mention that
you'd gotten that infamous tattoo
with a bunch of your friends;
mostly 18-year old, hormonal men,
I have to admit that; jealous,
I bit down on your skin on purpose.
A cute groan escapes your throat.
You flip over, grasp my forearms and ask,
“What are you doing?”
I respond with no apologies in my voice.
I'm jealous you can see it, plain as day.
“I'm leaving my mark on you.”
Heidi, you stare at me for a second;
your gray eyes showing confusion,
then basic understanding.
It's human nature, babe..
You push me away a little.
I think, “This is it; the moment of cold,
hard truth, when you'll tell me
it's over before it's even begun.
Oh how sad that is, girl;
you're shooting all my dreams away
with an imaginary deer-skin bow,
priceless arrow, the one you won
in a broken-hearts fight-club.
Darling, this is the moment, I guess;
when you'll close the tiny window of
opportunity that you left open for me
against a numb, dull rain.
But then, you trap my jaw between
those snow-queen fingers of yours.
You press your rough-diamond lips
against my still, shocked mouth.
Girl, you gasp that I've already left
a burning sunspot mark upon
your April trickster life.
Oh and we rock back and forth..
For the first time, we're the same;
inconsolably forever-young and bruised
by a wicked Oz sunbeam, streaming in
through your cupcake curtains as you
claw at my collarbone, passionately hurt me.
Oh and in this hour of secret-coding,
close-call whispering with soft scrapes and
hurried brush-strokes; with ghost-paint
drying over waist-lines and heat so painful,
it's all we need to feel real, alive again.
It doesn't even surprise us when
we hear the click of the door echoing
from downstairs, signaling that
your dad's just come home from work.
No, you just sigh, Heidi; and I tighten
my arms around your waist.
I'm remembering how; only a few moments ago,
I held you in the same position but
I was moving inside you and it was so much
hotter, everything so white and clear.
“Will he come upstairs?” I wonder aloud.
But you shake your head.
“First, my dad checks the mail in the foyer.
Then, he goes into the kitchen and
makes himself a glass of shipmate's bourbon.”
You explain this to me, as if you've known all along.
And once again, I can't help but feel jealous;
wondering how many boys there were before me,
how many boys you unlocked the back-door for
and let crawl along the eaves of your house,
run across the yard and escape
over your garden-state fence.
“Oh you're paranoid!” you laugh,
tousling my hair affectionately.
“Boys don't usually want to stay
for more than a few wet, Grimm
fairy tale kisses.
I assure you, I'm not as desirable
among our friends-slash-enemies
as you might think.”
Oh Heidi, I want to believe it..
Heidi, don't give me any reason
to doubt your wholesome-cupcake
personality, your teenage-dream
disorder, so sweet, sexy-smooth.
Tragic, you're such a tempting tool..
But it's never enough for me, is it?
No, I want to come along for the ride;
a midnight drive, 80 miles per hour,
right out of this freeway-white lie.
Past cornfields; we don't need this hicksville
influence, a grassland culture, hate
masked-prejudice everywhere we look.
No, we don't need bonfire threats at nightfall
like we received before; when we didn't know any better,
when we believed everything the grownups told us,
how the people living elsewhere were the "wrong ones".
On the other side of the sunflower state-line is where
I lost my sister to a stranger
reeking of ale and sour jokes,
compliments doused in Round Rock beer.
He drove by, took my sister and
everything I once treasured; innocence,
her smile and kind, deer-folk eyes.
It was one of the saddest moments of my young castaway life.
I haven't been as disappointed like I was since she ran off.
I wasn't even that upset when; years later,
my father hit me with his raw-hide belt.
Now, sweetheart, you give me hope..
You pull down your old high school notebook and reveal
that you've been hiding those
tattered and torn memories, all along;
a 1998 death-scene in a public library.
Girl, you've kept it all these years and
the question in my eyes is easily
readable in the silver-dusk light.
It streams through a hotel window;
this time, we ran away for real. “Why?”
But you shrug again, a troubled
yet irreplaceable teenager.
Yeah, now you're all honey-wheat limbs,
curled lashes, again.
“I guess,” you murmur, a sad-sweet
smile tugging at the corners of
your button-doll lips. “I guess
you're not the only one holding
onto this hurricane-flower past.”
And for the first time, I feel
completely sane; strong and
solid as a skyscraper in your
Girl, I say with more confidence
than I've ever felt in my life,
“Let's bury this shit!”
You glance up, confused and I continue,
“Let's bury this ghost, Heidi;
this unfaithful death.”
And we do; in a graveyard
filled with sugar-skulls, painted
prettily on tombstones,
Latin prayers engraved,
so useless yet poetically there.
We're free now, Heidi..
And if love is blind, then it's obvious;
that we've been numb all these years but now what?
With lilies and salt; sea-brine, we can
go anywhere we want with nothing left to lose,
but scraps of burnt memories.