She knocks on my door and says, “Open up.”
I tell her, “I won’t pretend I’m good at forgiving.” I find out
you kissed her in the blue walking lanes at Berkeley four years ago.
I cry for hours when she tells me. She recounts the secret dates
to Disneyland, the secret trips from LA to Cal, the secret you’ve kept
with her when we were apart. I hear my voice scurry, all nerve gone.
I am full of malice, spite, and I swear to myself: fuck, please, don’t
kill her. I throw her a Milwaukee beer and we sit on the couch to talk.
“He told me he liked me,” she says. “I lied to you for him.” She tells
me she wanted my yellow skin, my black hair, my breasts, my arms.
“I needed him to want me how he wanted you.” She takes my hands
and holds them against the plastered wall. I see her dark skin enveloping
mine. I tell her I wanted her trust. Her friendship. Her face becomes
convoluted, scrunching into a small, small ball. She says, “We could
have never been friends.”
I clasp her hands in mine and turn my head away from her. I tell her
the same things she told me: I wanted her dark skin, her still countenance,
her silence, her control. I say, “I wanted to be what I couldn’t be for him.”
I let her hold my hands as if they were air, like a memory. Our mouths are
closed and we don’t say anything. I let the silence fill me: I am a cup full
This is when I tell her we are married,
and the room becomes larger.
Her face is now flesh without such violence, and she takes her hands
away from me, letting them lay flatly against her chest. She stands up,
her back hunched like a bent tree, and cries under a white, fluorescent
sky. She leaves without a word, and I become slow, slow, saying
this trick: I am diminished and all right.
Revision of an old poem found here.
Written in the Collaborative Manifesto Remix with Ching-In Chen and other poets.
Inspired by ZZ Packer’s short story “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere.”
To the women in my life whom I have failed, I say this and will forever mean it: thank you for being in my life. I say this to those who have also failed me, in the very respect of what it means to be a woman and a friend and a sister. Without our failures, we would have never become who we are today, and for that I thank you. I am who I am, as passionate and relentless as I am because of this life, and I thank you for being a part of it. To my mother, who has been an constant absence in my life, thank you. Without you, I learned how to walk on my own and see my mistakes with my own eyes; I gained clarity. I don’t know how my life would have been with you in it, but I know this: without you, I am still living, loving, and learning, and I’m grateful that you’ve given me that much. You’ve given me life, and I thank you. To the women who are still in my life, the women who I love with all my heart, I thank you for loving me. I know I am hard to love.