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Precious fruit of the womb; burned up salt of the earth.
Oh, how nature has forgotten you.
You are fourteen when you lose your virginity.
But you were not so innocent to begin with; a wasted youth spent growing up too
fast, keeping company with college kids and middle aged-‐flakes. You smoke your
first blem with them; trade zoots after dark in the local park. You spend the era at
the bottom of a shot glass.
They show you how to self harm, but you’re too scared you’ll do it wrong and off
yourself, and you’ve always been afraid of dying, even though you tell them that you
really want to.
Oh, but he is the death you fear. Skin fits like a cheap suit, but you spot him in the
crowd; his calloused hands, his blistered mouth, a smile that doesn’t touch his eyes.
He is the slash on the wrist, the blood on the water, the swollen tongue, the empty
bottle. He is your tiny little life swallowed up.
His lines straight out of novels, eyes like shards of glass, and when he looks at you,
you fear that you will never see the moon again. The world holds its breath as you
learn that he could ruin you if he wanted to. Instead, he kills you softly.
He is your shadow. He is time and space and age, and when he’s through with you,
you are nothing more than ice and holes and memories.
You are fourteen. You use words like sick and sket and skeen because you don’t like
to talk about your feelings. You sell your soul to social media instead.
You learn about sex from the exploits scrawled on the backs of toilet doors -‐ the slag
list circulating Facebook. You are fourteen, yet the last of your friends to surrender.
They warn you that it hurts, that you’ll walk bow-‐legged for a while, but you’ll get
used to it.
They have absolutely no idea.
You are fourteen and you are his fantasy. Everybody’s beautiful; today is not your
day, but still, you’re the best of both, he says. Short hair, flat chest, rosebud mouth –
a mouth that isn’t ready for his just yet, so there’s months of longing, months of lust,
months of lying in his bed watching horror films. Holding hands under tables,
stealing glances in detention, drunken phone calls in the night.
Those three little words that mean so much to all are just another synonym for ‘treat
me like a fool’.
And this is how it starts.
He tells you what he really wants, that it’s what good girlfriends do. The trembling
touch of fragile fingers, your foolish groans revolt to whispers, but you don’t stop
“Oh, my love, you’re a silly little thing – a pretty little mouth like yours should stay
quiet, silent.” That’s what he spits as your heart starts to skip the beat it needs to
keep from ripping open.
Your skin the colour of eggshells,
and you are just as brittle beneath his ochre bones.
His touch leaves you drowning in your own smoke; your lungs bleed from his arrest,
and you feel your body begin to swell, feel it balloon into one big languid limb. A
bloated crust. A prodigious husk. Like fire, you snap and crackle. Like rust and bone,
His voice like the whump of a whip, rumbling through the murk, growing more and
more impatient. You try to pray, but you have run out of words. You burn at the core
as you plead, as you bleed, as you hope. Like rust and bone, like rust.
And finally, it’s over, it’s all over, and you don’t see him again.
You hibernate for days on end, just hoping he’ll return; he was never good for you
but you will never learn because the dream as you know it is over. This is the love
you come to know.
You are twenty-‐one, and people often ask you how you handled it. It’s easy when
you try. You looked for beauty in the silence. You learned to stay awake. You learned
to love the way he hurt you. And you loved him – you did – what other choice did
you have? He should have showed you the world and all of its promise, they say. But
he was too busy coming down.
And he is not the last.
You are twenty-‐one, and you know now not to look them in the eye, to let them have
you anywhere but on the bed. You pretend to be lovers, or friends, but you know
they’re all just one-‐night stands that never seem to end.
You finally realise that love and sex are very, very different things.
You are twenty-‐one and two years celibate, but the last time didn’t really count. You
didn’t even know each other’s names. You left your dignity at the foot of his bed as
you wondered if this was what you really wanted, if this was what love really meant
to you. To drink each other’s fluids and swallow each other’s pride?
Empty threats, cigarettes, unread texts and dirty sex.
No. Forever the fantasist, my darling, but your life is nothing but a cheap imitation of
the books you’ll never read. The words that you choke upon appear to write
themselves – and you’re still a mess; less of the dark shit now, but still tackling the
hardships that come when you’re too old to die young.
You are fourteen, the class clown, bad attitude a part of the furniture now, and they
forget the girl you were before him. You swear to your friends that you wouldn’t be
seen dead with the local bikes at the local club
And then you’re twenty-‐one and it’s not so long ago that you became one of them.
They touch you in the dark without your permission, and when they taste you, they
drink what’s left of your inhibitions, while the spirits you swill dilute your own. Your
youth smells like a distant sunset and is fading just as quickly, but you blow smoke
rings to stop yourself from saying no.
If only they would wrap their arms around you the right way, they would feel you
aching. They would see your skin prickle at the touch, standing on end and never
quite comfortable underneath the heat. Oh, if only they would run their fingers over
your scars, at the right tempo, and make them shine.
You are fourteen. You worry that nobody else will ever know you the way that he
did. They might see you naked, but they’ll never see your bones. They might kiss
your tongue but they’ll never taste your truth. They might make you sweat but
they’ll never make you cry.
You’re twenty-‐one the next time you see him. There’s no little girl inside of you
anymore – he put her to bed all those years ago, but still, you don’t feel like a woman
just yet and you know now that he is the reason. You are one big hangover of
premature puberty and he still reads you like a book; he still fills every page. Once,
he would have torn them out in frustration, but this night, he folds you up like
parchment, drenched in the ink you’ve spilled.
An apology is all you need and he delivers the speech so well. He was always the
better actor, but you can’t play truth or dare forever. So, you undress, pick a smile
that suits you best, but it starts to hurt your mouth – a mouth he kisses until you are
sick. His lips like cranberries, crimson crescent seals, and your teeth fall victim to
the nostalgic tongues between them. His breath dancing with old regret and the
sweetness fills your mouth.
All of the ways you thought you had grown, yet he still reduces you, he still seduces
It’s been six years since you touched hips and now he fills you in. And it’s the same
war of words, same iron first, head full of splinters and late night shakes.
You are twenty-‐one when you are finally exorcised. He is still perfection but beyond
redemption now. Left in a stubborn silence pregnant with mystery, you realise that
you were nothing more than a shadow in his history. A compulsive liar, soaring
higher on a cloud of coke and mourning -‐ he is the reason for it all:
Knocking down your own pedestals. Years spent with your knees up, knees deep, in
the back of a car in the middle of the street, with boys who demand you take a
shower like you are suddenly unclean. Nights in cheap hotels with the ones who
fuck you until you feel alone in your own skin. Waking up to a room of sleeping
teenage boys, wondering how many of them slipped you more than drugs during the
night. Years of eating your feelings until your gums bleed with the taste of gin.
The night before became the norm for you and you’d drift – you’d drift and you’d
thrift between your lovers, but now you see that they weren’t really human at all;
just pot and pipes and neon lights.
His hands make shapes but there’s nothing to hold. You know that you’re too old for
this now. He talks until his tongue bleeds, rigid in his skinny jeans and you can
barely look at him. He can chew on the roots of addiction, take his medicine, take his
pills – but all he has to offer you now is jealousy and cheap thrills.
He should come with a health warning.
You are twenty-‐one and this is the last time you will speak of him. He is lost in the
wilderness of these very words. Still, in your veins run bitter symphonies.
Love dances around your mind like a pipe dream, the word burning through your
throat like a cancer.
But, no more; you’ve spent a lifetime fighting the light that you carry around inside
of you, and now you’re strong enough to survive this dirty world. It’s easier to lose
yourself, to wallow, to feel lonely – but young one, you grow from the seeds that you
sow. You must restore what belongs to you; learn how to laugh again, learn how to
hold yourself, learn how to be alone.
And all of the rest will follow.
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