AS MEMORY PERMITS

after Claire Vaye Watkins

In many ways he is still the same _______  the same blond and tan skin between June and August during swim season the same small hands like a child small stature about my height with a walk that announces itself when it passes. Still that particular sort of Catholic kid charm I don’t know if it’s the guilt he masks under Old Spice Fiji all I know is I know exactly the air he gives off. Too proud too loud but never enough to stop himself from crying in my arms like we did when we were fifteen seventeen he always made me play mother. I should have played girlfriend should have played sophomore in high school but instead I was mother cleaning up his mess mother forcing a smile mother coaxing the sadness from his thin frame I can still feel those golden strands between my fingers. In these photographs he smiles with eyes closed there’s a different girl now and her name is something Asian because that’s what she is I can tell not only from how she looks but because he told me drunkenly that I have given him a thing for Asian girls it doesn’t bother me.

He is always so loud always declaring something from another room always thinking of himself a god of his own right always the one running through the youth group hall with the fire extinguisher screaming Let’s fuck it up with eyes aflame he’d only kiss me on fire in public always someone watching. He never knew how to keep things to himself. Always telling telling telling never stopping. We wore matching promise rings that were cheap metal from Forever 21 to the point where we stained our ring fingers green and the nickel turned burnt orange. What were we promising? I remember feeling proud of my skin looking diseased like that I just knew it meant something. He’d laugh during the rosary with me never at me or the rosary but with me. He was always with me calling me Michelle although sometimes it sounded like Michelle I love you or Michelle don’t go or Michelle why do you always have to cry. Sometimes it even sounded like Mother that word a title he never gave me but one I gave myself over and over as I clutched his weight in my arms let him collapse rock solid onto my chest let him break.

To this day I don’t know who to care for.

 

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