AT LONG LAST

Maybe, somewhere along the way,
I convinced myself that youth would last forever.
That I would always be stuck in the rhythm
of forced routine, wake up, put on makeup,
have Mom drive me to school, hate every second of it.
Maybe I thought life would always be made of
easy memories. Falling asleep in first period
because 3 AM on a school night
is the perfect hour for writing poetry.
I thought life would always consist of
Friday night football games, writing love letters
on the backs of hallway passes, giggling
when I slide them into his pockets, giddiness.
Of somewhat-straight As, feeling misunderstood,
tearing up report cards and smiling at the wreckage.
I thought I would always be cemented
in my hometown bliss: learning how to drive,
breaking up and making up, heartache and redemption
and midnights spent somewhere in-between.
Maybe I believed I would always have this–
the cyclical comfort, the lack of identity
that let me be whoever I wanted to be,
the social chameleon in a jean skirt
and too much girlish passion to fit on her face.
Maybe, somewhere along the way,
I fell in love with the stability
of knowing my life inside and out–
Wash, wear, repeat.
Break down, build back up, shine.
Show up, work, leave.
Leave.
It never occurred to me that I would have to leave.

Until now.
Until I find myself standing in the hot steam of it all,
just moments away from expiration.
When I find myself writing a poem about endings,
the culmination of four whirlwind years, a poem
that stings the back of my throat,
a poem that terrifies me.
Until I am here, waving goodbye,
clad in white and gold and blue,
medals hanging around my neck
and my name scrawled on paper.
Until I am writing to the teachers
that saved my life, the friends
that cured my brokenness, the ones
whose numbers I would dial
whenever the weight of the world
came crashing down at my feet,
the ones who would always pick up
and still would, if my heart
was to shatter again.

Maybe the end was a myth until now.

Until I find myself lost
in a sea of people I love,
memorizing their faces
for the last time
before we are forced
to grow up.