1. Do you think of me when it gets cold? Do you remember the way I would shiver until you brought the duvet out onto the couch, being careful not to let it touch the floor? The way you’d crank up the car’s heat on the way home from the movies to keep my teeth from clacking?
2. Did Lady Bird remind you of me? Of the person I was when this all began, or the person I could be, all elbows and fire before the world broke me, before the world broke us?
3. What did you tell your family? Am I the villain in your story? Did you blame me for giving up? Did they hug you or did they just nod and move along?
4. Did you love or did you hate the new Star Wars? Would we have fought about it? Or would I have ranted and ranted until you caved to my unyielding belligerence?
5. Did you change your pin number? Your password? Did you scrub me out of your life all at once or did you let go bit by bit?
6. Is it empty without me? Or are you finally free?
1. Sparkler in hand you run barefoot among the rows of seated families, watching in awe as the flame lingers in the air, your retinas burning. You return, cackling, to your mom, waving the sparking stick too close to her face for comfort. The white light falters and fades away. The grass is wet, the sky dark except for the strip of city glow on the horizon. You’re waiting, time stretching on forever. Fireflies rise in the grass from in between your toes and you try to catch one, finger outstretched and hopeful. The first boom startles you. Fire erupts in the sky as your mom gathers you onto her lap, smiling in wonder at the way she can see every light reflected in your eyes. These were the days when the show lasted hours, one stunning shower of lights after another. Later you’ll realize it was mere minutes.
2. You drove here, you must’ve. Yes you definitely did. You run back to your car in a panic, the prospect of being near pseudo-strangers, (enemies?) too daunting. The sky is exploding as you slam the car door shut and dig your nails into the skin on your wrist. You scratch and you scratch until skin is coming off in layers and your nails are sticky with blood. You glance longingly at the cement ledge. Whose smart idea was it to park on the top floor of a parking garage? Yours probably, but you don’t remember anything before this moment. Did you take something? You don’t recall. You’re crying and crying and you can’t breathe but you’re shifting into reverse and speeding down the ramp. The only fireworks you see that night are in your rear view mirror. These were the days when you thought these people mattered, when you wanted both their pity and respect. Later you’ll realize he didn’t care enough for you to worry so much anyway.
3. You’re late. Your head is foggy as you shuffle down the street in your pajamas, not even intending to make it all the way there. You follow the popping until you catch a glimpse of a yellow starburst. You climb onto a ledge at the end of the street, the hot stone chafing your bare legs. You look up, catching the rest of the show from between tree tops and with the glow of a streetlight. You think of blankets, of hands held and smiles upturned and dewy grass beneath you and you blink. You blink again and again until it’s gone. You’re shaking but there are no tears. You sit there long after the sky returns to blankness, wishing the minutes still stretched like they did when a firefly looked big in your hand and you could fall asleep in the car on the way home. These were the days when every moment alone felt lonely. Later you’ll realize you were better company anyway.
I forgot what it feels like to be sad at night, walking through dark streets, passing intermittently under the orange street light glow. To feel your skin burning with the desire to run, to burn, hoping that the quiet air assuages that fire. Walking and walking and running and walking to shut up your brain and the crawling on your skin. But lighting up anyway. But marking yourself up anyway. It doesn’t count if you don’t do it at home, right?
This is what it would’ve been like, you imagine, if you hadn’t been too busy in high school getting high and destroying your skin in your parents’ windowless basement, fighting the night and fighting yourself, punching walls at school and trying to stay on the right side of the road on your way home. But now you’re alone and you’re crying and you’re screaming and you’re trying to walk it off but you’re failing you’re failing you’re failing. Perhaps it’s not the same after all. You’ll never really know.