18 – 23

I was eighteen.
I was soft.

If you wanted to find the knot that all those red strings connected to, it was 2007. I was learning to live in a world where someone I loved had died; like all of a sudden I wasn’t so young anymore. Like being caught in between optimism and cynicism was no longer the worst of my worries. Like vanilla body spray could cover the smell of loss if I just wanted it hard enough.

And a boy, who could’ve been any boy, saw a lamb where I saw a lion. Kissed cigarette smoke into my mouth. Disappeared and reappeared like some sort of sick magic trick. When I asked him to break my fingers, he went for the throat. When I heard stories about him and another girl, he laughed, You don’t really believe that?

I was nineteen.
Believe was a big word. One I wanted.
One I kept.

And a boy, who could’ve been any boy, saw a moment to don a red cape. A girl in a tower, crying quietly, growing her hair long. Taught me how to say goodbye. Taught me how to love shadows again, without knowing I was loving shadows. I thought he was skin and bones. I thought he was guts and glory.

I was twenty.
I was twenty-one.
I was twenty-two.

I knew a lot about being left like an afterthought that didn’t deserve his breath. Used the hurt to empty, used the anger to burn. Built myself up like a warrior. Like his name meant freedom. Like his face meant thank-you.

I was twenty-three.
I was different.

And a boy, who wasn’t just any boy, loved me. Simple. Easy. Clean. Like coming home. And I loved him, like I learned to love myself. Simple. Easy. Clean.

Like coming home.

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