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Naming The Stars

She sits back in her chair and props her battered wrists atop the tears in her jeans. Head tilted back to the night sky, she avoids my question and confesses that she’s taken to naming the stars, trying to teach them to dance. Through the hold in her canvas sneakers, I see her biggest toe drumming out a frenzied beat. She told me once that she was afraid of time. Her eyes are closed, but her fingers are dancing on the seat of the chair in an irregular rhythm. Tappity-tap-tap-tappity. Her knuckles are bright with scars, and her wrists model jagged pink lines. She told me once, a different time than before, that she wants to try everything before she dies. I guess that could include cutting herself and getting involved in drugs and all sorts of unpleasant things. She peers over the edge of the roof, contemplates the city below.

“I don’t want anyone to have to grow up in a world like this,” she tells me through a collage of car fumes and the night and the last traces of summertime. “I don’t want a single person to consider jumping when they’re up this high in the air.” She unfolds an impossibly thin leg and toes the line with gusto.

I grab her hand; cover the entirety of hers without even trying. I pull her away from the edge of the building, probably more forcefully than I needed to. She wouldn’t jump, not tonight, not now. Would she? I feel her release into my hands, give up on something that may or may not have happened if I wasn’t here.

She follows me to a new spot on the roof, one that is a safe distance away from any edges that she may consider flinging herself over. I feel sad for her. How can she hold this much sadness inside of her? I wonder if she thinks about jumping every time she’s up in the air. The thought makes me feel sick deep inside my stomach. I don’t understand why Harlo can’t see how lucky she is. Yeah, she’s made some bad choices in her life; true, some people had let her down in life. But it wasn’t as bad as it could be. A little part of me wants to hate her, just because what she’s doing is so selfish. But the whole of me knows that I could never hate Harlo, no matter what happened between us.

“Harlo, are you okay?” I take her other hand in mine; bend my head down a little so I can look at her straight through those giant eyes that I fell in love with.

She laughs, but not a real laugh that happens when she’s happy. It’s hard and angry and hurting. “I’m never okay, Cooper. You of all people should know that by now.”

“Did you and Hannah take something? Did you guys shoot up in the bathroom?” I want to shake her. It’s too dark out here to see if her pupils are dilated or not, but I’m willing to bet that they are. She sways slightly under the pressure of my words.



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