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Once, you told me that my skin was too pale and that my eyes
were too sad. You told me to wear colors other than black.
I went home that night and dragged the blade of my pocket knife
across the white of my inner thigh, watching as scarlet bloomed to surface.
I called you on the telephone and said,
‘You would be proud, I’m wearing red tonight.’
I think you laughed, but it sort of sounded like a sob.
There was something beautiful about the rain, and on stormy days,
you would always hold me on your couch and twirl your fingers in my hair.
Sometimes I would feel a drop of wet on my cheek, and I told you
that maybe you should check your roof, because it was leaking.
It took me eight times to figure out that they weren’t raindrops, but your teardrops.
The next time it rained, I stayed home and sat on my driveway,
letting the sky water saturate my shirt and soak through to my bones.
You taught me a lot of big words, like
‘quintessential’ and ‘superfluous’ and ‘agoraphobia’.
I decided that I was probably a little agoraphobic
because whenever I was without you, I was a nervous wreck.
But maybe that was just the whole ‘love’ thing and not an anxiety disorder.
The stories you told me were always so promising, about little girls
with orange lantern cheeks and eggshell lips. You would call them paper dolls.
But at the end of every one, the paper doll girl wouldn’t find her prince,
and her heart would flicker and fade like dying lights.
‘Am I your paper doll girl?’ I asked once, watching as you bit at your chapped lips.
I’m pretty sure that was when you started to crumble.
‘Only if you want to be,’ you rasped, and let go of my hand that you had been holding.
A breathy sigh left me. ‘I don’t, because I want to find you.’
‘You should have started looking a long time ago, then.’
The day after you left, I made a chain of paper dolls and wrote ‘me’ on every one.
I was going to send them to you, but I forgot. They’re still on the corner
of my desk, collecting dust beside my broken vase of dead tulips.
I wouldn’t know where to mail them, anyway.
Because I still haven’t found you