the flesh of my inner right elbow
I can’t believe you’d do this to her.
there was a classroom on washington street
in a tiny red brick building that felt like it
held the world swallowed up in its belly
like the watermelon our teacher ate
in the fourth grade wing
where the new girl was forced to sit next to me.
as fate would have it O and P are next
to each other as far as the alphabet and opium
and the two of us
she had hair as long as rapunzel’s except not at all
because it was dark and split and all her
family could afford was two-in-one shampoo
but at the time i didn’t know her
ripped green leather sneakers and
stitched up patched up hot pink and purple mexican jacket
weren’t fashion statements they were
i shook her hand
and she shook mine.
we stacked our binders in between our desks
just like the other kids did and i thanked god
that my mom fucked up when reading the supply list
just like hers did because it specifically stated
“one zippered binder”
and her mom couldn’t find an extra one of those
to steal from work but my mom just ignored the instructions
because she found me a really cute pink one.
so neither of our binders zippered
and her coats didn’t either.
eleven years later she was legally allowed to do everything
she had been doing since she was thirteen,
since i was sixteen.
on that birthday she played guitar on a broken stool for me
while i laid on her bed (an air mattress)
the air tasted like 7-11 pizza
and the fresh turquoise paint her landlord
slapped on the walls of her lopsided apartment.
if you swallowed up the entire world
she would probably be the only watermelon seed
who hates the color blue.
her fingers plucked strings and the music on her breath
was as beautiful and terrible
as each of our respective opinions
she cut her hair
cut her wrists
cut our pizza with two plastic forks
she tried on outfits that resembled table cloths and
ballerina suits and halloween costumes
but they didn’t look like hand-me-downs anymore
they looked like fashion statements
she made statements like
i’m not gonna make this month’s rent and
i’m gonna start a band
she placed records by bands i’ve never heard of on
her player and she’s been a player
ever since she dropped out of high school
i’d never tell her but i’ve always thought she
had to learn the rules to this game too early
she knew about winners and losers
before she tried opium
before we shook hands
before our moms forgot the
binders we needed were supposed to be zippered
i asked her why all the songs she sang
didn’t make any sense and
after eleven years she said
didn’t i tell you?
in fourth grade
all my brother ever did was unzip me