You probably don’t remember me,
the one who used to follow you like a shadow,
closer than a shadow, even.
I followed in your footsteps,
even when you went and hid from me,
favoring my sister with your childish vices
and broke my childishly loving
I ran up and down stairs with you,
(and with others, but they didn’t seem so brilliant)
and held a place in line for you,
always in front of me, though not
for any good reason except that
any favor from you was
my golden apple, treasured and sweet,
and rare for all the times I tried to get it.
I waited longingly for that one time of year
when we, same age, same grade,
were invariably made to compete as a team,
and magically your respect
or maybe just your praise
came easily, and our friendship was real for some sweet
Sunday afternoons, made of popcorn and paper questions.
I still remember, one year that we competed,
that other, red-haired girl had picked a fight with me,
and you told me, in the best way a child can give friendship,
that you’d fight her for me.
I also still remember
the stinging of icy snow and blinding, hot tears in my eyes
on a winter night when you laughed at my pitiful anger.
And then we moved away, and I wondered if you’d miss me,
if perhaps you’d feel a twinge when you turned to find your shadow absent.
I doubted it;
Ahissa moved away, and we barely knew her name,
the two of us, two years after.
I spent a summer drifting in our tiny cedar forest,
climbing and carving your initial into the birch in our front yard,
and wondering what a shadow was to do without its Peter Pan.
I wondered then, if my whole childhood had been spent
following a boy who’d never liked me at all,
if I’d been a silly, babbling fool of a tomboy
who only claimed that Ember and the twins were boring
because I wanted to follow you.
I wondered, that summer,
if you’d ever truly seen me.
I wonder now
what we would think if we met tomorrow—
I imagine we’d be in rather different positions.
Your brother was in jail,
and I heard your sister’s trouble now,
and Kennedy shows me pictures of you all.
You’ve grown, taller and a bit thicker,
more like Caleb, I think.
Me, I’ve got hips.
Hips, and a new haircut, and a tendency to only let my tomboy out
Who knows, maybe we’d be friends tomorrow;
I’m not at all bitter, if that’s what you’re thinking.
“Retroactively annoyed at myself” would be the words I’d choose,
for following instead of leading,
for falling into the same pattern once we got here,
and for thinking that same pattern could ever work as love,
I’ve salvaged that one, though,
with Sam’s help...
...well, it was mostly Samuel.
My infatuation, turned to true friendship,
to phileo, to a boy, a man, who’s got my back
and who talks to me like I matter,
and who talks to my real lover like we matter.
And Collin, unlike you, treats me like a lady.
I suppose can’t blame you
for not treating a tomboy like a lady in the fifth grade,
but at least I know I matter.
At least I know that if I moved away,
someone, someones would call and write and remember me
for more than a couple of years,
You probably don’t remember me,
and I probably don’t remember what I was trying to say,
but I’ll say this:
I forgive you.
We were, after all, children,
and children can be cruel.
Sincerely and shadowlessly,