Roses are Red

By , Ashburn, VA
Five years ago, I was an intern at the Montgomery School of Poetry and Art. As an intern, I was given the task of assisting the 13-14 year olds in making human clay casts. The first day we experimented with this technique, we performed it on another intern, my best friend, Benjamin McKinnon. We covered Ben in oil, then molded him into the cast and let it set. While the students ate lunch I began to take the cast off Ben’s feet with my hammer.
Ben whimpered a little bit and out of nowhere admitted, “Rose, are we even as close friends as we used to be? You just haven’t been as dedicated to MSPA as you used to be…you used to always make your poetry and art truthful. You never wanted to teach. You wanted to learn.” Ben had caught me on the wrong day, though. I didn’t need that accusation. He didn’t realize how much stress had already drowned my ability to be rational. I wasn’t thinking when I covered Ben’s breathing hole in the clay with my palm. At the time, it was only me drowning out the sound of just another person pointing out my flaws. As he screamed and plead within the hard exterior of the cast I composed the poem he didn’t think I was capable of creating. “Tormented insane, my screams aren’t my own. In the comfort of clay, no skin and no bone. This isn’t me. This isn’t me. This isn’t me…” I had cried out. But Ben died that day in his sculpture from air deprivation, and I lied and told everyone I wasn’t responsible. The memory of Ben haunted me until the day I died.
“He’s staring at me.” I whispered to my best-friend, Liz; subtly gesturing to the handsome loner beside the door. “Ohmigod, wait who!? Is he cute!?” Liz yelled excitedly over the music, and flailing her arms wildly. I watched her scan the room but before she could say anything I had taken off to greet him. The stranger’s dark green eyes locked with mine, and a slow, simmering smile spread across his face.

As I walked closer he left his spot on the wall to go outside and signaled me to follow him. I met him on the porch. “Some party, huh?” I said gesturing to the house. He gave another of his slow smiles and replied “Yeah, it’s loud. What’s your name?” I laughed “Rosalind. But friends call me Rose.” “I’m Benny. I’m a poet, so when I hear names as unique as yours it’s just a breath of fresh air.” He praised. But my heart stopped beating for a millisecond, something about his reply made me feel uneasy. But I’d never seen Benny before in my life…? “My friends call me Clay. It’s a stupid nickname, with a long story.” His tight smile lingered with sadness. “Do you wanna’ go for a walk?” he asked kindly. I glanced back at the party to see the silhouette of Liz dancing with a group of friends I’d seen around campus. “Sure.” I confirmed with a smile.

We walked for a little bit in silence until we reached a long bridge that overlooked a deep, rocky lake. I could feel Benny’s gaze on me as we sat down on the bridge’s stone floor. “So do you read poems?” asked Benny with a genuine expression. “Used to; But now just the usual “roses are red violets are blue” stuff.” I joked. “I’ll tell you my favorite poem when the timing is right. I love poetry. I think all poems and art should live and thrive, like humans. Don’t you think? Poetry should be a collection of truths. It shouldn’t be a lie.” Benny rambled brightly. I shivered a little bit as his face hardened and his eyes met mine. “I hate lies.” He whispered.

I looked out over the lake. He reached for my hand and I took it to prove to myself that this boy was just a regular boy. After all, we were just two people chatting on a bridge, right? It was normal. “Here’s a poem I wrote a while back.” His grip tightened around my wrist. “Death do us part by the knives lullaby”, he recited. Out of the corner of my eye I watched him remove a blade from his coat and I screamed. He reached out quietly encasing my neck in his grasp and holding his knife to my jugular. “, Is so much sweeter than the death of the gun, or that of thy choice.” He allowed the knife to rub gently back and forth along my throat and I felt a drop of blood run down my neck. I sobbed.

“STOP IT!” Ben screamed, slapping me. “I’m not hurting you! Not like you hurt me!” he screamed outraged. “I’m bringing the poetry to life for you.” His face was emotionless as he whispered, “Here’s an expert from my favorite poem; entitled Birches, by Robert Frost.” Ben frowned. “In every cry of every man, in every infant’s cry of fear.” Ben stabbed me once in the stomach and a long, pleading sob escaped from my lips. “In every voice, in every ban, the mind forg’d manacles I hear.” Ben picked my limp body up and hung me over the rail of the bridge. As black spots clouded my vision, I heard his sincere voice, “How the chimney- sweepers cry every black’ning church appalls. And the hapless soldier’s sigh, runs in blood down palace walls.”

As Ben raised his bloody knife he whispered, “I knew you would want this, Rose. And you’re so much more beautiful now. You should be grateful; you and I get to die in our art. We both got to die a masterpiece.” And even as he stabbed me a final time, and the police ran on to the bridge to find my dead body, Ben resumed his position by my side. They couldn’t see him like I could, because he was already dead. He was a ghost.
There were plenty of noises: Liz crying, the ambulance sirens howling. But the life in me faded to the feel of Ben pushing me over the Bridge’s rail and into the hauntingly rocky depths of the lake; and the sound of Ben murmuring quietly into my blood-coated ear “Roses are red. Roses are red. Roses are red--”.

Moral: You really shouldn’t ignore the obvious. It always comes back to haunt you in the end.





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