I. My mother told me
I always had a way with words.
“You talked your way out of trouble every time,” she said.
But that doesn’t explain why in the fourth grade,
I took the fall for stealing a boy’s post-nap cookie,
Despite how many times I said I didn’t like chocolate chips.
Or why, ten years later, I couldn’t talk that same boy down from a heroin binge.
Or, in another week, a skyscraper ledge.
II. I breathe him in every day.
Even though it’s been a decade,
I swear I can smell him on the sweater he gave me in the tenth grade when I was cold at the movies.
We saw The Notebook and both hated it,
But pretended otherwise,
each for the other’s sake.
III. The morning after I inhaled the last of his essence,
I drank tequila with my Cheerios.
It was oddly reminiscent of the morning after I heard the cell phone hit the ground a second before his head
(He was a diver in high school.
Sometimes I wanted him to dive down my throat and put a band aid on my aching lungs.)
—watched him curl into an unnatural ring
(Like the contortionists we saw when he spent his birthday money
On tickets for us to see Cirque du Soleil
After he stopped spending it on toy trucks but
Before he started spending it on the high I couldn’t give him.)
IV. After I saw the caution tape around the last pieces of him,
red like my heart and my eyes and my thoughts,
Yellow became my least favorite color.
And red, white, and blue
spoke death to me.