There’s a picture
In the yearbook
Of a girl named Juliet.
She was that kind of girl
(You know the type)
Wears baggy, long-sleeved t-shirts
Long enough to wear
But she doesn’t
Because she wears
The same pairs of
Worn-in, well-washed jeans
And dirty sneakers,
Dark laces dragging in the dirt,
All year round.
She carried around
Stacks of library books
Along with her binders
And notebook paper,
A big spiral notebook
Permanently under her
Her long black sleeves
Always pulled high onto her palms
So the only things that you could see
Were her short, chewed up nails,
Her thin brown hair
Peeking out from beneath
Her black knit hat,
Wide gray eyes,
Dark purple circles
Bruised into the delicate skin
Staring back at the hell
That they had made of her world.
There was a splay of freckles
On her tiny nose,
And they moved whenever
She wrinkled her nose
Like she did when she was concentrating
On whatever was in
That spiral notebook of her’s,
Her hand gripping the pencil
Like it was going to save her life.
Her strokes were fervent and important,
Her hand flying across the paper
Like fluttering alabaster birds
And her tongue stuck out
As she concentrated,
But only a little,
A tiny flash of pink
Between her snow-white lips.
The picture is of her
Doing whatever it was
In that notebook she carried around.
She was sitting
In her usual lunch spot,
The cramped space
Between the lockers
On the far side of the quad
Where everyone pretended she didn’t exist
And looked over her
Like she was just a wind.
But she preferred that
To the whispers and the taunts
From the beginning of the year
When she’d blurted out,
To her (ex) best friend
That she liked girls
Instead of guys.
They just stared
Like she was a caged animal
In the city zoo.
She had pretended that
The ugly names
Didn’t hurt her,
Even though they felt like knives,
Breaking her down bit by bit
Until she was just scraps
With random bits of string and tape
Like a sad rag doll
That could never be played with again.
In the picture
The look on her face
Is intent, determined,
As her alabaster birds
Flew across the paper
With quick, meaningful motions,
But that wasn’t what she was inside.
Inside she was broken down and busted
Like a china doll
That had been dropped too many times
And couldn’t smile anymore.
Nothing touched her
Because her emotions had been broken
Like a fragile thin bone,
Snapped straight in the middle,
Deeper than a hairline fracture,
But not deep enough for people to see.
The picture is on her eulogy,
Along with others
From when she was happier.
She got her long-forgotten wish,
People finally respected her,
But only because
She had taken her pink polka-dotted bed sheets,
From her younger times
When she was a happy little flower child,
Tied them ‘round her skinny neck
And jumped out her windowsill
That rainy night
Three days after her picture was taken.
They had found her notebook sitting on her bed.
It was filled with pencil drawings
Scratches full of vivacity and movement,
Impressions from her world,
Gray and white sketches of her life:
The water fountain she saw from her lunch spot,
The locker next to her that never closed correctly,
Her own hands with tiny lines etching across the surface
Like delicate little spider webs.
There was a carefully curved drawing
Of her old best friend,
Her friend’s lips curved in a smile,
Her eyelashes thick and twinkling,
Down to the mascara-ended tip,
A perfect little heart
Penciled in into the corner.
Juliet had won a full page in her 11th grade yearbook,
But she had to lose her life to earn it.
She had jumped off her windowsill
That rainy night
Because she had only been that kind of girl,
(You know the type)
And she desperately wanted to be her real self,
Her true self,
The self that laughed in the rain,
And danced by herself alone in her room,
And drew pictures that looked like life itself,
And dreamed of getting that one perfect kiss
From the girl she had loved since before she could remember.
Juliet had wanted to laugh and love and live,
But nobody let her.