I. The dash, scattered with photographs of the girls you had kissed, and me, sitting in the passenger seat, placing my cheeks on the chilly tempered glass, never wishing that one of those pictures might be of me. Your summer breath – popcorn hulls, jalapeño juice, tobacco leaves – all so close to my mouth, but now, winter mint, like you were hiding, like you had always been hiding, like you knew there wasn’t another way out. When the tires tore through the muddy shoulder snow, the truck tugged, and I clinched my fists, praying we would crash so I could hide, too.
II. Two days later, you fell asleep on the living room floor and I searched your phone. I needed evidence, something that might have stopped me from believing I was the first of anything, the girl before the last slip-up, someone you might have trusted if I had given you what you wanted. But instead, I found line after line of addiction – words I continually rehearsed and repeated to my friends. I miss you so much, baby. No, she’s nothing like you.
III. I read the messages about the girl with hair like Ramen noodles. How you fucked her twice in her little sister’s bed, how she bled out like a strawberry. Your fingers were so diligent, bed and key, trying to convince either of us that we weren’t like the other. I wonder if she knew we had once been friends, long before you twisted my tongue and tied my arms behind my back. I wonder if she knew I had only been thirteen. When the messages ended, I shook you awake, cutting violence through my fingertips and promising myself I would start breathing without you. Peaceful, when you woke up, put on your boots, drove off with plans to see a movie with your sister.
I spit the words out like vomit: Is he gonna jump or are you gonna fucking shoot him?
IV. Your best friend soon called me, begging for words as you positioned yourself on the ledge of an interstate overpass. My name was ripe on your lips. He said you had told him everything, about that bonfire last autumn when, stumbling drunk, you ripped off your shirt and wrapped it around my neck. Like a few days prior, when you had flicked a lighter against my arm, laughing when the tiny hairs curled, melting, stinging, and I threw my fists into your chest. But you hadn’t remembered those moments. Instead, your best friend asked me if I wanted you dead because you had told him I said it, that I had rebuked you a hundred times, and oh – how I wish that I had. A thousand yesses flew off my tongue before I could convince myself of another verdict and the gun, muffled, cocked, rattled like pennies in a tin can between the phone speaker and my ear. I spit the words out like vomit: Is he gonna jump or are you gonna fucking shoot him?
V. Five years later, images of you: towel snaps, sharp laughs, swollen knuckles pinning me on the basement floor. I waited for the phone call – the very moment your mother was forced to dial my number, muster every ounce of courage, strain her voice as she tiptoed around the truth. I wanted, needed that phone call, but it never came. Now, I’ve blotted it all out; each recollection a rough draft, weak, just waiting for edits, for my own hands to turn everything I have into nothing about you.
McKenzie Dial is an Illinois native and her work has appeared online at The Spout. She currently serves as the social media manager for The Vehicle literary magazine.