I thought the worse thing to happen

Could be another person leaving me.

It turns out, things would have been better

If you’d just left me alone.


I was shy and sad,

I hated school, socializing, and Florida.

I wanted to burrow inside of myself,

But I could only hide so far in.

Brushing my hair was too hard,

Wearing nice clothes was exhausting,

Even waking up tired me out.


People wanted to talk to me,

Mostly because I was the new girl.

They peppered me with questions,

Assaulted me with tidbits of their lives.

They wanted everything from me

With nothing in return.

I hated them on sight.


When Mr. Webb made me stand in front of the class,

Told me to talk about myself

In a room full of strangers,

I wanted to throw up,

But if I’d known you were there,

I would have glued myself to my seat,

Stitched my lips closed,

And refused to speak,

To draw your eye to the pathetic target I was.

I didn’t though,

But instead stammered out my name,

That I was from Missouri,

(Oh, so far from home),

That I was new.

But all you heard was weakness.


You didn’t target me right away.

No, you waited a week or two,

Waited until we were toiling away

Under the watchful eye of Webb

(Or not.)

I was reading my book,

Done with my work.

Reading and writing was all I did really,

The only things to make me happy.

You came over and interrupted me,

(Not a good start to a friendship,

But neither was anything else you did.)

You gave me a smile,

But I felt it’s falseness like a slap.

I should know,

Everyone is full of fake smiles

For the ragged, new girl.

“Would you like to go out with me?”

You asked, suddenly.

No introductions, no lead-in,

Just crisp and clear.

What did you want me to say?

How were you trying to typecast me?

I gave the only answer I knew,


And I’d never seen someone so happy

To be facing down rejection.

You wandered off back to your group of friends,

And I could hear you laughing.

Not even the comforting folds

Of the story on my pages

Could muffle what I heard next.

“I did my dare, do I get my sucker now?”

You said.

Your friends roared with laughter,

I had the sharp urge to disappear,

To melt out of everyone's lives

(Just as suddenly as my brother melted out of mine.)


Why wasn’t one time good enough?

Why did you have to push the joke?


You have to understand, Jonathan.

I was already broken when you found me.

I was a shell of my former self,

And my former self had already been messed up,

The way a lifetime of anxiety come true does.

When we met,

I was a hollow body with nothing

Coiled up like a snake in my chest,

Devouring everything that came to close.

But the small pieces I had saved?

Those were all bare, raw emotions,

Tender, unarmored feelings that I couldn’t protect.

I took every emotion to the max.

I was never just happy or sad or angry.

I was overjoyed (Although that was rare),

Or devastated (Which was my main mood)

Or I was pissed (To remind myself I was still alive.)

Everything you said to me or about me,

It was like an arrow straight to my heart.


My mom told me to not be sensitive,

That maybe you liked me,

That maybe you were flirting.

Oh, you should have seen the rows we had over you,

If you had just known, Jonathan.

We would bicker,

I would scream, storm away, cry myself out.

I was in so much pain,

But I didn’t need it to be fixed,

(I had already learned distrust of the system, any system),

I just wanted to be understood.

But no one understood.

No one knew what it felt like.


After that first day,

I was like your back-up joke.

If nothing else was sticking,

Throw one out about your undying love for me,

And it was sure to get some giggles.

You pulled in your girl friend

(Or girlfriend, I didn’t even know her name),

And you fake argued over me.

You implied we did dirty things together,

Described kissing me,

Imagined a relationship that never happened.


It was always so goddamn funny.

In my head, I can still hear them laughing.

What was the joke, Jonathan?

What was so funny?

Was it me?

Was it you?

Why was the idea that you’d like me

So goddamn hilarious to everyone

(except me)?

Was it because I was ugly

(because you were no looker)?

Because I was quiet

(Because I disliked vomiting every thought aloud)?

Because I was there

(All vulnerable and alone in front of you)?


The worst was Valentine’s Day.

One day, I’d like to be with a boy

(One nothing like you)

On Valentine’s Day,

And maybe kiss him

And laugh over nothing,

And enjoy Valentine’s Day

Without the sharp loneliness and bitterness

That thoughts of you bring.

I don’t want you to ruin a holiday for me.

Until then, your face smears across

The day of love,

Forever taunting me.

I was hot and tired,

Already done with Florida’s heat

(Hot? In February? Ridiculous!)

Class was almost done

And I wanted out.

A crowd formed around the door

With me slightly apart from it.

You came from nowhere,

(Less resistance that way I suppose)

And flung your arm around my shoulders.

I froze like a deer in headlights

(Unsure whether survival is worth it).

“Will you be Valentine, Katrina?”

You shouted.

It was not romantic or sweet or corny.

You could hardly hold back your laughter.

I felt sick to my stomach.

Everything was too hot, too sweaty.

I felt trapped in place, unable to move.

That single second looped for infinity

(Sometimes I feel like I’m still there,

Struggling to answer.)

My words failed me,

And I jerked away.

Escape, escape, escape.

I stumbled away to the back of the room,

Chased by the class’s laughter.


After that day,

I no longer felt safe.

Every day you were there,

Was a day I might be hunted.

I looked over my shoulder,

I watched you,

Made sure you didn’t get too close.

I flinched at every word you said,

And steeled myself every time I had to speak,

Waiting for you to say something

Dirty or needy

(Or hilarious to everyone else.)


You tore me apart, Jonathan,

(Like an overeager hyena to the cheetah cub.)

You destroyed my trust.

Liking me, admiring me,

That’s just a joke.

I can’t believe compliments,

I can’t trust my own crushes.

I had to build myself up,

Piece by piece,

Brick by brick.

I had to find confidence and happiness.

I had to look at myself in the mirror

And convince myself that I was





If only I could believe it.


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