Bullet holes adorn my walls like wallpaper tracing over constellations of stars. The sounds of gunshots whisper into my ear, because death doesn’t understand age. My mother pulls us out of bed from our feet, dragging us onto the cold floor. She begins to scream as she feels warm blood between her fingers as she holds my one year old brother in her arms.
After what feels like an eternity, the revenge of two rival gangs is satisfied, and my mom turns on the light to see my brother’s forehead covered in blood from hitting the metal railing on the bed. She begins yelling, cursing the gunshots, cursing the gangs, cursing her powerlessness.
My mother’s fear began to slowly drip into me and the gunshots that had once lulled me to sleep became my nightmares.
I am stuck within these walls, between these halls. It’s so dark that I see my own breath like fireflies across the midnight sky as I exhale. I can feel my knees trembling, but not because I’m afraid of the darkness, they shake because they are becoming weak holding my invisible weight. My hands have disappeared and my thoughts feel unfamiliar. I have forgotten who I am, what I am. All I know is the darkness, and its abysmal trap as it becomes my eyes, becomes my skin, becomes my breath. And soon, I melt into the walls waiting for someone else’s breath to join mine.
After what felt like an eternity, the words finally came out.
“I love you.”
Your smile was an indicator of what was to follow.
You kissed my forehead and said, “I love you too.”
Nothing was more certain.
Despite the movement coming in and out of the train, people avoid any possible connection to one another. No one looks at each other, no one talks to each other. Everyone stares at their phones, at their shoes, at a book, anywhere but at each other.
They are lifeless.
But then, she sits next to me on the 7 train. She cries and her mascara runs around the edges of her eyes, hollowing them. She wipes each tear and darkens her pale skin, creating a masterpiece as the flower in her hair adorns her in a captivating moment.
She is the only piece of humanity on this train ride.
Childhood toys on Christmas morning aren’t the same with just one parent. Your absence was most obvious on my rides to school every morning. One parent always kissed me goodbye, while all of my friends received two kisses, one from each parent.
Sometimes you came to me in dreams where we would fly off on an adventure conquering the world together. We seemed happy, we seemed like we belonged. But every morning, you were always gone and I was left behind.
I wondered if you would have ever said, “yes” because Mami always said “no.” I wondered if you would have agreed with Mami, because she’s can give a mean stare when you try to get around her rules that helps you know you are crossing the line.
Dance recitals always had an extra empty chair. They always reserved two for every student. I always wished I would be surprised to see you sitting in that chair, but it was there, always empty. But maybe you didn’t like dance, maybe you liked art.
Your face was familiar as we stared at each other outside of Steven’s Steakhouse. You looked just like in pictures, but your hair seemed to have gone gray. But you weren’t my father; you were simply just a stranger whose nose and curly hair I inherited.
I am nine years old, standing on this wooden chair as it carries my weight. It is a reminder that I can no longer bear all of this. I’m tired, so tired. It would be easier to just let it all go. All I want to do is just let go.
But then you walk through the door and you look into my eyes. You slowly take the rope from my fingers, pulling it over my neck. You begin to untangle the knot on the rope without a single word.
I was holding my breath for so long, I wasn’t sure you were real anymore. I wasn’t sure I was real. Finally, I gasp for air. It fills my lungs.
I’m still standing here and I don’t want to let go anymore.
Don’t let me go.
For the first time, you saved me from a pain far worse than just skinned knees.
You were sharp like the shards of glass that once cut my wrists open, but you were far more painful. Your words could tear me down within seconds, only to have you pull me back off the ground. I’m exhausted. Just let me lie here.
I am the splatter of ink beside your table. You write to remember and I write to forget. Your pen hits that black notebook you carry everywhere, and you’ve began to etch the next wound on my skin, the next wound on my heart.
You carefully constructed ways to break me down, so that I could drown deeper into your veins. And when you cut yourself against the same paper you value, I finally escaped and splattered against the bright white floor once again.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
They live deep inside me, where no one can reach them. They hide between crevices, so I try to keep you at a distance, afraid you will get too close and find them. Sometimes, I am afraid I will find them too.
How do you just run away from things that are in your head?
Sometimes my mind is so loud, that every memory comes rushing back, but all that comes out from between my lips is nothing. These thoughts. I used to drown in you, and no one could see me struggling to stay afloat. I just couldn’t stay afloat.
Sometimes I see you trying to open up my pages, and I wish you wouldn’t. But then, just for a moment, I just hope that you would just do it. Open them. Because maybe you’ll read the story differently than I do. And maybe you’ll help me learn how to stay afloat.
Tonight, I can write a poem filled with verses just for you. I can write in prose and let the words flow from my fingertips onto this paper as if they were droplets of water slowly sliding down your skin. But I won’t. Instead, I will measure the distance between us.
I lie awake for hours on end, wrestling with my thoughts. I want to be here, next to you, creating dark figures in the middle of the night. Are we playing pretend? I’m afraid I won’t know if you want to leave your shadow next to mine when you wake up.
At this time of night, everything is still, everything is quiet. The only sound I hear is your breathing and the pounding of my heart. Perhaps this could be the most bittersweet moment we share. I can whisper it all in your ear, but maybe I’m just a coward and I won’t.
It’s easy to take refuge in silence, because words reveal too much.
Daylight brings out the chestnut glimmer in your eyes; it highlights your soft skin, the slight bend of your fingers that hold me close to you in the morning. In the morning, my flaws are visible; that scar beneath my lip, those faded marks on my wrist, my slight over bite, the blemish on my chin.
But in the darkness, we are equals.
Our hands, our lips, and fingertips find their way around one another as if by some faint memory we have known each other all along. We spend countless hours sharing our most intimate thoughts, laughing under a crescent moon, exploring our matching scars.
There is beauty in the way our shadows lay side by side tonight, seemingly becoming one.