My mother used to tell me what not do with myself: Don't follow people; Don't follow boys; But most of all, Don't be around people who you can follow. She described these people with a toxic speech, That while her lips did not burn with the acid coming out of her teeth, they singed the small part of me that was already doing those things. While, of course, all I did was nod at her. There was this one day, a garbage man leaned out of his window and waved at me. He was tan, had an after shadow the color of rust, and an open mouthed smile— those ones that look like they just belong on certain people. I had a smile of my own and waved back at him like he was an old friend. My newer friend asked me if I knew him. I admitted I didn't, with a light shrug; And he let out a laugh that sounded like it finally found freedom. I think I found of bit of freedom that day. There used to be something Unnerving about looking people in the eye. Something that made me feel like, In the space of a second, I was swallowed whole and tucked into a place in their minds that I never understood until, They opened their mouths and told me just what they thought of me. I never liked that un-knowing feeling as it sank deeper into my stomach; the garbage truck and the man long gone from the congested traffic. So, when people stared, I grinned and waved and tucked them into the same place in their mind they tucked me. There was another time, Back when I was Christian, and I held as much fervor for Jesus, As I could fit behind a poker face; That I went to a church where rugs hung on the walls, everywhere And the pews were lined by foldable chairs facing A stereo system that, if it had feelings, must have felt as out of place as I was. I got the hug of all hugs from a bearded man, Who I later found, Owned a motorcycle and was going through a rough time, With his girlfriend. I learned that people were more than people-- More than a mind in a body. And were made by an incredible something, we can just never Put a name to. I remember looking into the eyes of a good friend, once, And seeing a girl twenty years from now, struggling to take care Of a child as illegitimate as the age she started drinking, Because by some twisted standard, she was not pretty enough, For the boys who never remembered her name, Until she made them scream it on her knees. When she marched out of the bathroom with a boy, After leaving me to play with my thumbs for half an hour, I saw the way she smiled, And talked about the escapade, And confided in how she loved him and his brother; And I felt, as if the concrete we walked was covered in the peelings of her skin.
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