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I'm Only 18 On The Outside

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I'm only eighteen on the outside.
I'm only eighteen where you cannot see the bullet holes in my skull and the machetes stuck in my back, where the elderly can pat my cheeks and tell me I'm a little girl who hasn't aged a day in her life, I'm only eighteen on the outside.
I'm only eighteen where the skin is still taut, where my eyes still sparkle, where my giggles sound like a Hallmark card, ignoring the biting and wretched gnawing in my stomach because I have been so hungry for so long, and there could never be enough Angelou and enough Poe to to fill my belly, never mind my soul, where my shoulders are still smooth and you do not know that I am carrying the weight of the world on these beauties, where there are no wrinkles in my forehead and my hair is not gray, where I can still stand straight and tall, regardless of the years I have aged in just a few months, the burdens I wear, and the secrets I have been told to keep for so long. The words of the wise have been etched in my calves, my soul has been lined with worry and wrinkled with unforgettable pain. No fountain of youth could ever rejuvenate and make me young and carefree again because once you see it all, you can't erase it, you can't erase the words, the pictures, the sounds, the memories, you can't erase the decades this soul has aged, though I'm only eighteen. My mouth may have been silent, but my ears heard it all and my eyes have never stopped seeing. Don't ask me how old I was when I grew up because I don't know, all I know is that I was six years old when I learned how to be afraid of the man whose name I was forced to carry and wear like a brand stating that I was his property to abuse and treat however he pleased, and I have been aging since the day he left his indelible mark on my soul, and though I can be as immature as any other teenager- I laugh at the silliest jokes, my heart races when a cute boy stops and says hello- you can see it in my tired eyes at night when the smile I put on each day slowly fades away, you can see it in my stance when I'm stooped over because I've finally given up on hope, at least for today, you can hear it, maybe, if you listen, you can hear it in the words I can't help but say... I'm only eighteen on the outside. On the inside, I'm ancient.




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