I turn 20 in exactly 4 months to the day. And how alien it is, to be starting a new line of numbers, to be nearing the end of this era– still being a teenager somewhat allowed (and definitely expected) to make all the mistakes in the world. The closing credits of childhood I’d been anticipating since I was old enough to anticipate anything at all. It is finally here, sitting on my porch, waiting for me to answer the door, tapping its foot impatiently. This is the sound of the rest of my life calling… if I lean my head against the wood, I swear I can hear it breathing.
It’s a strange thing, truly, because I really do feel like I am about to open a door, a portal to somewhere I’ve never been before. A door that leads somewhere and closes another somewhere for good. I feel simultaneously like I’ve been 20-something my whole life, but also like every atom in my body is screaming no, no, no, you are still so young, you can’t fill the shoes of someone any older than you are right now. Because 20-something means I have to have it somewhat figured out. No one’s gonna stoop down to tie my shoes anymore, to clean up all of my figurative glasses of spilled milk. No one’s gonna do my laundry, fold it, leave me notes in my lunch. No one’s gonna make my lunch or book doctor’s appointments for me, wiping sick tears from burning cheeks. And it’s not even like I’m losing a mother any time soon, God forbid, but I am losing the ability to have everything handed to me, ironed and cared for, tended to and spoon-fed.
in so many ways I am still fifteen / I don’t want to give anything up / these sugar sweet saccharine days / still L’Oréal lipstick in Cinnamon Toast / still a body doused in Bath & Body Works A Thousand Wishes / still it burns the nostrils like liquid fire / still my very first kiss under a blanket of stars / still a bad driver, wheels slamming the curb every time / still skeptical at Sunday mass, pinching my thigh to believe in how real it burns / still this dense suburban air is the only air I’ve ever known / because in so many ways I am still fifteen / not wanting to give anything up / still shaking out of fear in high school bathrooms / still sporting chipped fingernail polish / just take it off already damn it / why do I / still hold onto things that have already had their time? / still my baby pink bedroom / still the secrets I can’t even tell God / I can feel Him listening through the walls / still I doubt anyone would ever save me / I don’t even know if I would have saved me / back then at least / but I do it every day now / in so many ways / in so many ways / in so many ways / because I have to! / because what would Jesus do? / I’m still not sure / but nowadays I find myself smiling at me / yes / that me / still fifteen / still not able to give anything up / and with hands folded in prayer / she smiles back / did you hear that? / she smiles back.
On dark days, the mind steals
all it can find, stripping the body
of energy, harvesting the chance
to keep what is meant
to be kept.
I have grown used to the sensation
of take, of weeping I have nothing left,
of standing at the precipice of madness,
my heart a vacuum, my voice depleted
I have given so much
to so many, yet still I give
and still the mind takes.
But when I am loving you
in July and we are walking
across the Fort Pitt bridge,
your palm airtight against
my own, I command my eyes
to Memorize this, take it all in—
all of this peeling yellow paint,
our laughter a stone skipping
across the river. If only this bridge
arched a little bit higher, if only
we never had to peel our hands
apart. We could walk forever
that way, suspended in summer,
our voices bouncing from steel beams.
Memorize this, I whisper to myself,
and nothing can take it away from you.
This is how I keep time
I take it all in.
You—my brightest day,
the highest height,
are what the mind,
though it tries,