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You Have Learned

By , Cranston, RI
When he smiles at you, do not take it.

Do not accept the prize of his attention
with open palms, do not cling to this blessing
with fingernails bitten down to the quick.

He prefers manicured hands.

When you are in the car and he utters
condemnations against your gender, when he
prefaces them with a kind reassurance that
“you are not like everyone else”
stop him.

Ask him what everyone else is like.
Ask him how many girls have warmed this leather
how many smiles he’s given
how many “not like everyone else”’s
he’s issued in this car.

When you need a date for junior prom
because you don’t know how to
meet boys that aren’t him,
call him. Ask politely.

Do not whine, do not plead, do not grovel.
Do not call him every night for a week
asking if he’s checked his schedule.
He’s checked his schedule.
He’s not sure about you.

When he promises, do not believe him.

Find the pages you’ve written about him. Don’t cry.
Wrap the ribbon from the bouquet he gave you
around the handle of your dresser.
Do not think he’ll give you anything else.

When you get one last day in summer,
when you realize you still have his address memorized,
do not mourn him.

Mourn the girl who cried in voicemails,
mourn the girl who got shattered,
put on some makeup and mend the cracks.

Drive to his house.

Convince the bowling alley to stay open.
Bowl a gutter ball.
Bowl a strike.
Remember that he fits you no better
than the lurid shoes cramping your toes.

When he talks about college, you should listen.
When he says he’s going, ask him when.
Be happy. Be happy.

He is leaving.
Do not think he’ll stay.





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