When I first met her, I was drowning.
The lifeguard bruised my ribs,
his fists pumping between my breasts.
I tasted the chemicals
swirling around my tongue
before chunks of Coney dog and acid
graced the hot pavement.
That day, I let her walk me home.
She’d remind me of this later:
Grief never chased me down;
I followed her inside.
We slept over the sheets the first night,
our skin never touching.
I listened to her deliberate breaths,
cicadas and ragweed stagnant in the air.
Her diaphragm moved like my mother’s
and I knew she was here to stay.
She took her coffee with ice cubes
and when she licked the porcelain mug
I wanted her.
Her fingers traced my stretch marks
like they were secret Scripture
and I counted the ceiling tiles.
We looked like sisters, Grief and me,
Our hair in knots, unclean and hot.
I took scissors to chop it all off,
to make us different,
but she brushed my bangs back
and said, “child, summer is over”
in a New Orleans drawl so slick
that I felt the sugar on my teeth.
I poured bleach down all the drains
to drown any fruit flies nesting there
and then I waited for her,
lying on the bathroom linoleum,
listening for her to tiptoe into bed,
knowing that I could not leave.