the boy with twelve bracelets

the cobwebs of your past cling

to the inside of your ribcage

and gently strangle your heart.

 

when i saw you for the first time

i had already known you for weeks,

taken part in your gorgeous

conversations and watched you spread

laughter like a perfect virus

among all the people you met.

you wore twelve bracelets,

six on each wrist;

once upon a time they served

to cover a mistake you made

when you were thirteen,

but it wasn’t a mistake now

so much as a story

about a boy who was brave enough to keep breathing,

and you kept the bracelets just because their memory annoyed you

when you took them off.

 

that was what you said, anyway.

then i learned how sure you were

that you were only pretending

to be brave.

 

you wore a mirror as a face,

silver and starlike,

molded to your features and well-rehearsed

in reflecting just what you

knew people wanted to see

 

and one night,

terrified of seeing nothing but myself

in you

[and greedy to see your face]

i smashed the mirror.

 

i expected you to scramble to pick up the pieces,

to yell,

to scream,

but you just stood there,

fully clothed and naked in front of me,

and for the first time you whispered about

those cobwebs in your chest,

how they were killing you slowly,

strangling you–

how your heart couldn’t beat right,

your lungs couldn’t breathe

 

so with guesswork in my eyes and hope on your face,

i told you differently.

i told you those cobwebs weren’t strangling you,

they were staunching your wounds–

filmy bits of cloth that beat off the scar tissue

whenever it tried to form,

keeping you forever alive

and forever dying.

 

broken glass crackled under my feet as i

pulled your lighter from your pocket

and placed it in your hand,

 

and, with the moon watching impassively,

you set your past alight.

your nails tore into my palm,

my shoulders,

my back,

as the infected bandages burned away,

and your wounds,

for the first time in six years,

bled.

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