We used to watch Madonna videos high on your parents’ pot. Your room full of pillows at the top of the spiral staircase. You had black lace gloves from some modeling gig though I never saw any red-lipped photographs. I couldn’t match your eyebrows or your fine, fine skin that had never been sun-baked and freckled. But we were both drawn to bravado, though you wielded it more like her and I slunk under my army jacket, a men’s size XXL. I brushed my hair once in the morning and once before I braided it at bedtime. You had a bathroom full of hair products I didn’t understand. You barely ate. I barely ate. We smoked Camel straights when we could get them and tried to keep the ash from burning the midnight upholstery in your Volvo. Old tapes and new on your floorboard, you told me to pick something. When I saw my brother’s looped handwriting on a mixtape, your hands tightened on the wheel, but you never looked away from the road. You wanted to tell me, but you didn’t know how. I played the tape he made you. Our hair whipped, the open moonroof wild with silk spring air and angst. And when the fling went sideways, my brother knelt on our living room floor in front of the stereo, punching himself in the forehead.
articles of faith
The first year we lived together making rent meant odd jobs for your dad. Glue and trowels. I tried to be brave and strong, but half the time I tore muscles trying to hold up my end of the rolls of vinyl. I’d walk funny for days, nurse a shoulder with heat. But I wanted to prove myself to you. Prove I wasn’t afraid of work. Prove I was worth something. Prove I wasn’t a frivolous girl. My Docs were already covered in paint and blood. Living with you meant showering together to save water, sanding walls, and caulking bathtubs, and let me tell you, baby, I was into it. We’d think we were about to be evicted and a few fourteen-hour days later, our lips split from working in the heat, we’d have enough cash to stay in the apartment with brown shag carpet, where we never cared if we spilled soda or bong water and we laughed high to heaven when we broke the futon. But these days, if I know anything, it is only my body’s weakness for your phantom.