Wednesday, 3 July 2019

The night before

The night before my 29th birthday, the only thing I wanted was your time. I've blown out my fair share of pastel pink candles and made enough not-so-secret birthday wishes to know to lower my expectations, and the only thing I wanted was a new memory to hold on to. That's all I ever wanted from you, and you gave it to me without much thought at all.

In case you need to hear it, you made me happier than I knew I could be.

The night before my 29th birthday was the night before life went on. I would carry on as normal and accept what we have come to be, but for that night, I would lose myself in this one more time. Birthdays are for indulgence, so let me enjoy the way you stare at me sometimes.

Over the years, I've always wanted more time. I've obsessed and grieved over the concept of timekeeping, forever mulling over the one thing that wields control over my life. I live my life by deadlines, always pushing everything to the last possible moment just so I can have another minute, another second to make it right. I've wanted the time that was stolen from me when my life burned to the ground, the time that I've wasted on ungrateful, spoiled men who never deserved me, and for someone to show me I was worth their own time too.

After losing so much of my own, I knew that hours and minutes were in short supply and I knew the value of hourglass sand and calendars. I marked every lost day with an X, waiting for a day that mattered again. I make a big deal out of my birthday because otherwise, I'm reminded of how far behind I am- at least in terms of what everyone else expects from me.

Birthdays are an unnecessary reminder of what we've lost and how we've failed, at how much work we have left to do. They mark little victories with confetti but pop our happy mental bubbles like balloons. I've come a long way, but not far enough and the only person I disappoint is myself. I know I'm being ridiculous and I'm actually looking forward to one final year of my twenties so I can fuck up all over again, so let it be.

I do not pay every bill on time, nor do I take my bins out when I should. I don't cut my hair more than once a year and I always forget to go to the dentist. I do not have someone who loves me, and I definitely do not in any shape or form, have my shit together. I have a complicated relationship with clocks and numbers, but I know that time tastes like birthday cake. It's a little like buttercream and candle soot.

The night before my 29th birthday, you gave me your time and I watched it pass with every single shadow across your face. Most people look good in the golds of June, but you carry it differently like you haven't even noticed that the light has changed you. I for example, am very aware that I only ever enjoy some kind of glow during golden hour, and I know my face changes when I feel comfortable in the light. You on the other hand, are completely oblivious that you look warmer and more at ease when the sun starts to set. Your hands still fidget, but you look comfortable. I don't think you've ever truly understood the effect you have on me, and quite honestly, it's a mystery to me too. What isn't a mystery is how I look at you, it's written all over my face and if you haven't figured it out by now, catch the fuck up.

People have often wondered why I've given you so much time when I've already mourned the loss of so much of it. It's easy because I've learned to give it without seeking anything in return. I'm not afraid of losing time to you, but I am afraid you won't ever give it.

Despite the fact that I've lost time to daydreams and defeats, I know me better because I know you better, and I wouldn't trade this for anything. You could parade a Greek god in front of me or a rich man on a yacht, and I still wouldn't see anything else. You could even give me a man with armfuls of chubby puppies, and I'm pretty sure I'd just ask if you could have the dogs instead. You could give me a strong, secure man who wants to give me attention on an IV drip, and I'd still refuse to budge. I honestly don't know what it would take for me to leave.

What a shame it would be to throw away something that comforts me like afternoon naps and cereal milk, what a pity to lose someone who isn't afraid to tell me to shut up when I'm picking a fight just because I feel like it.

It would be such a ludicrous, senseless waste to kill this crooked little almost-love, just because of clocks and alarm bells. I think we've both expected me to say the words, to tell you "I've had enough" and storm off in a big dramatic huff, but somehow, we're in this for the long haul. You never give me anything that I want, and I kind of love it.

I stopped counting the months and the arguments, but I often get nostalgic about the history of our friendship. I get lost on my way down memory lane and I'm happy here where time stands still, so I won't notice it if anyone comes looking for me, or even if they don't. There aren't many days I care to remember, but the ones you've given me live here with the souvenirs and messages from arguments I should forget.

For someone so hellbent on saving time, I just love to waste it with you and all I ever wanted was for you to waste it too. I like talking too much and doing nothing much at all, I like feeling time move past me with the speed of a racehorse, giving me heartbeats to match. Just talk shit to me, I'll love it. Tell me what you dreamed of last night, or that my hair looks nice (It does, so just say so). I'll lap it up, you don't even really need to try.

I like our synchronised colours, how your cheeks turn peach and my neck prickles in pink. I like how I pull at the chain around my neck, just to give my hands something to do when you do that thing you always do.  Colouring memories like paintings, I like how I try to preserve every single moment of this just in case it leaves me one day. Most things are sweet and sour when they're gone, so I'll sweeten this while I still can. Even if I wanted to paint something or someone else, everything I touch turns into this. Stuck beneath my nails, my hands are covered in blues and greens from creating our complications and from pulling us apart, just to make sense of our human parts.          

I write to have the conversations I know I can never have.

I write so you can have them too.

You gave me something perfect for my birthday without even trying, and this was all you had to do all along. You gave me hours and a feeling that felt like something old and something new. I felt bright and alive like I hadn't in weeks, and I realised that wasting time with you is always a gift. Even when the worst of us burns bright, I feel like luck was on my side this entire time. For once, luck had my back and it gave me you.

I don't know what I did to deserve feeling so happy, but you were comforting like strawberry Nesquik and old Polaroids in frames. It felt like knowing myself again by knowing you. If I could give you all the time in the world, I probably would. If I could relive this all over again (even the fights, you stubborn dumbass), then I always would.

You made me so happy, the night before 29 felt like time tapping my shoulder.

If we ever run out of time, I'll still rewind us like cassettes.

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Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Just don't

Did you know that if you feel sick to your stomach and put the windows down while you drive, you can drive for approximately 13 minutes before you need to hit the brakes?

At least, I can stomach it for 13 minutes. I'm not sure if my theory works for anyone else.

I think about the things I always do when this gets hard. I think about that day last May when you kicked a stone down a path, or that Friday in November when I saw you smile in a small, quiet way that told me it was real. I remember how you'd let me cling on to your shoulders whenever we said goodbye, how you'd let me stay still until it felt cold. You haven't done that for a while, and I can barely remember how it feels to lean into you. I can barely remember what it's like to be still, and I miss you.

It's been three weeks of not feeling myself, and seven days of feeling like I lost whatever we had. I've been so busy looking for us, in case you were wondering why I've been so quiet. I've been looking for a way out, for a way to keep this hurt in check. I've been spinning in circles for seven days and sickness has caught up with me.

I forget to eat and I forget to laugh, but I don't forget about you. Do you wonder where I've gone? Do you even want me to come back?

I won't beg for you, I know what I deserve and I know you don't see what's so clearly right in front of you. I've fought for you ten times over, and it's your turn to fight for me instead.

I know this feeling, I know these symptoms and I know this is the beginning of a broken heart. I felt sick at the chance of seeing you, at being reminded of how one text hurt more than the rest. I drove faster than I should have just to get home.

I'm not taking the blame for this one, for the Tuesday that pulled on my trigger.

Here's a really good piece of advice, are you listening?

When someone communicates that something is wrong, when you know that they're hurting and that they need you to be there, don't throw it back at them. It's scary to show that you care, I know, but you wouldn't even put yourself on a ledge for five minutes.

But haven't I been stood at one for all this time? I've balanced and tip toed my way along this, but the only one pushing and shoving me is you. You push me away, and I cling on enough for both of us. I've been patient and kind, because I know your heart is good but rusty.

Those little letters bounced around the screen, it took just two words to end this round of swordplay. You're running short on nine lives, and you don't have long left to fix this. You should text me back while you have the chance because I trusted you to be there, I trusted you to know me so don't pretend you tried, just don't.

Not only were you not there for me at a time when I so badly needed you to be, but you didn't even seem to notice that I wasn't so bulletproof about it.

I've thought about this a lot over the last few days, about the gun-shy boy with a shaky little lion heart and restless hands. You so badly want to be left alone and loveless, all so you don't betray yourself with those pesky things called feelings. Don't take this the wrong way, but it's dumb as fuck.

Pretending you have no feelings doesn't change that you have them, and it doesn't change the fact I'm just as capable of snapping you in half, too. I'm a thorn in your side, but I think you like how it feels when I dig into you.

I hope you know, this was the most fun I ever had. This was the greatest could-be, should-be love story that I could have ever hoped for. I'll never let another man take me for pancakes, and I'll never let anyone this close to me again.

Do you need me to plug your heart back in so you can feel something real again? Charge to the highest voltage, would you let me bring you back to life sometime? Maybe then we can give you a heart you're not so afraid to use. Maybe you can feel electric run through your fingers when I reach out to you, and maybe I can bring those butterflies back from the dead before you kill them all over again.

The time you've been afforded is almost up, and that's why I push your buttons and push my luck. That's why I drink another and kiss another, you know. This is what you wanted, wasn't it?

They keep telling me this is a mess, and they're right. This is an ugly, beautiful, tragic mess but my God, you taught me to believe again. You've misunderstood me plenty, infuriated me more, and devastated me exactly twice. I wouldn't change one thing about you, but I can't keep letting you push me away.

Let me clear things up.

It's not that hard to talk to me, but you act like it's the most impossible thing on this Earth and I love impossible things. 

The sky is not going to fall if you show your humanity, the world isn't going to burn to the ground if you feel vulnerable. I'm not going to weaponise it and point it right back at you like a loaded gun, I'm going to wrap it up neatly and put it away for safekeeping until I need it again, but I'm sick of trying to tell you that.

I ask for reassurance because you don't give it, so don't say you have to constantly provide it, just don't. 

The reason it's so tiring is not because I want it from time to time, but because you're always fighting me on it. 

You do not refuse to give me attention because it's unhealthy validation, or because I ask for it. Of course, you'd have me think those are the reasons and I'm sure you believe it, but the truth is, telling me how you feel would require you putting yourself on the line. It would require you to admit you have more emotional capacity than a teaspoon, and that's something you just won't do.

I've never asked you for more, I've never asked for much at all. I've only ever asked to know you, and for you to know me back.

This fight was different, it was quick and quiet and stung like a hundred papercuts. This wasn't another lonely call out for affection, or a carpe diem moment powered by gin and loneliness. This was real, and I needed you to be my friend. Instead, you made me feel like a burden and you didn't even try to change my mind.

They tell me I fell in love and I tell them I didn't. If I loved you, it wouldn't be this way, would it? This is a complicated, selfless and pure kind of affection. The kind that goes deeper than romance and happy endings, the kind that will protect you no matter what. The kind that survives in the end.

I've been a good, loyal friend to you and you owe me an apology but please don't say it unless you mean it. Just don't.

If I ever loved you, I wouldn't let someone else touch me.

If I ever loved you, the two pendants of an S and an ellipsis around my neck would be for you, not for me. 

If I ever loved you, I'd lie.

Just don't ask me.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Don't knock my door

One of the many problems with trauma is that it follows you wherever you go. Sneaky and devilish, it grins in your face because it knows you'll want to make a deal. It tries to scare you with teeth because it wants your spine, it wants to see you snap in half. It promises to leave you alone as long as you give it anything it wants. Just one more grip around your throat, just one more taste of you before surrender.

Trauma sounds like most men I know, actually, and there's a reason for that.

The trouble with men is that the devils look a lot like angels with clipped wings, so I've been easily fooled before. Trauma though, trauma looks like two different faces. These faces are so similar, but so different if you know where to look, like twins of abuse that stripped away my belief. They took apart my heart and threw it around my ribcage like a messy game of tennis, they stole my trust and dismantled my brain. I'm pretty sure I made a great science project, as unwilling and mouthy as I was about it all. They took a few other things while they were at it, and the only person who knows apart from my therapist, is my trauma.

So, it laughs at me.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Stop looking at me like that

He had his arm draped over me when he tried to knock on my heart.

He looked me dead in the eye with a kind of eager curiosity, and I knew what was coming. Here we go, the mandatory pillow talk of recent heartaches. We'd already covered the big ones, the easy ones, and I'd just left this one out. 

"Has there been anyone else... in the last few years where you've felt like, this is it?"

He looked at me like he might care, but I knew better than that.

It hit me like a punch in the stomach, so I stopped to catch my breath before I let a single word come out of my mouth.

I looked at the wall when I said yes.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

This one is going to hurt

Hey you, remember me?

I think you've forgotten about me lately, so as the fully grown and matured adult that I am, I've tried to forget you back. Keeping me out of sight really does seem to keep me out of mind, doesn't it?

In case you need a reminder, I'm the girl you play pretend with to warm up for a never-ending game of hide and seek. I'm the girl who dug her nails into her hand when she tried not to cry in front of you, the one who can be both sad and happy at the same time.

I'm the girl who can pull you into photobooths and preserve memories forever, even if they do just live in the bottom of my bag with Tic Tacs and six lipsticks. I'm the one whose warmth feels a lot like sunlight, bright and sunny for the sake of everyone else but harsh and overpowering if my clouds start to clear. Today's outlook is overcast with a chance of a raging storm, don't forget your coat.

Maybe you recognise me by the half smile you gave me? I wear it again when I remember the times my driving nearly killed you, or when you surprised me at Techniquest, but I take it off in case it leaves me of its own accord. Maybe you know me as the girl who collected our stories and wrote them out for you, or maybe you remember me by that red scarf I still haven't taken back from you.

I'm the girl who was good enough for the thing that isn't a thing, but not enough for you to admit you're ever wrong. You'd rather lose me, just to be right. It's easier than being vulnerable, I understand.

Ah, now you remember, don't you?

I could lie and say it's your loss, not mine. I could argue that you'll soon realise how much you needed me, once I stop nudging and nagging and keeping you close. You warned me all along and I believed in you anyway. One of us is losing and I think it's me this time.

I've started to think about what it means to cut out old things, how to remove dead tissue without stripping away fresh skin. I could make the incision, pull you back and rip you from me in one painful movement. There's a hundred reasons why I don't.

Our quarterly argument has happened, and once again I'm telling myself I can't do this anymore. I'll be specific about it this time.

Here's what I can't deal with (aka The Things That Piss Shelley Off: For Stubborn Dummies with Check Shirts, now featuring an extra chapter on "Please let me touch your hair!")

The big three offenders:

  • Feeling forgotten, abandoned and unappreciated
  • Being ignored and avoided - in case you haven't learned by now, looking the other way will just make me come back. I will not accept avoidance. I deserve answers, no matter how awkward it makes you feel.
  • Pretending that this was all ever only me - it might be easy for you to pin the intensity on me, but your resistance is tied into your need to protect yourself. Work on it.

You've reopened that wound from the winter, but I know the routine of mending myself as well as I know the routine of us.

One step forward, two steps back. A little bit too much, a little bit never enough.

I feel a little sick and I'm getting more delirious than I'd like. I don't feel so good, and I think I've borrowed some sadness from you. You are never a burden to me but your cold is contagious this time. You usually keep me so safe, but this time is different. You push away, resisting the cure better than I do, but I'll have to cut this sickness out if you don't help me fight this one off.

I'll try to self medicate, bargaining with devils just to feel full up. Poison and medication are the same to me sometimes, and I just need something to help me at night. I can knock back overpriced shots and swill paper straws around gin in cut glass, and I can soothe the burns with the touch of someone new. I can dig into shoulders and say the right things, taking comfort in knowing I can make someone else remember me. I know how to do this, and practice makes perfect.

You're going to let me go soon, and there's nothing I can do to stop it. I know how to keep myself together when this is all over, and I know what to wear with grief. Friends break your heart too, so keep it simple, and hide beneath comfortable clothes so no one can see you. Tap a little more concealer on, they won't see the rest.

The days will be the same: Come home, undress, listen to the kettle boil. Stew feelings and tea, sweeten with gold honey and words. Start to miss the way things were, and say the things I never said out loud. Stare at arcade tickets. Argue with myself in the shower, and fall asleep with zero notifications.

You sometimes seem to me more of a gruff cowardly lion than man and you're about to get lonely, you know. I know I've made you feel something now and again, maybe too often for you to feel comfortable with. I know I'm the one who makes you run and hide, but you always take a headstart.

Oh, but where did you go? Can you even hear me from where you are right now?

Sometimes I just don't get how someone so bone idle can run away so fast, seriously, what's the hurry? If you sprint some more you'll just fall on your face, and one day, I'll surprise you. You'll be rubbing dirt from your eyes when you start to see me run from you instead. Maybe I caught up with you in the end, maybe this time we won't turn back around to help each other up again. Maybe my hiding place will be better than yours. Here we are with maybes again.

The truth is, I'd sooner die than say goodbye to this peculiar, emotionally charged friendship, but here's the thing. At our core, we are friends who have this deep understanding for one another. There's admiration and affection there, but let me break this down.

You are not being a good friend to me. You're not being the worst, but you're certainly not treating me right.  You infuriate me and ignore me, and block my breath so I cough you up like second hand smoke. I lose my temper just to clear the air, but I breathe you in all over again.

Here's an excerpt from my upcoming self help guide (another one!)  - How to Treat People The Way They Deserve (Even when you don't want to!):

Make the first move now and again, or maybe ask questions. Check in, life is hard and sometimes people need to feel cared about. Sometimes you can save them from themselves just by sending them a funny text, I'll even take a meme that makes fun of me at this point. Make time for people, let them know when you need them or want them around. Prioritise yourself first and foremost, but let people know you're doing it. You do not need to be a complete asshat to practice self care. It takes thirty seconds to be good to someone. If you push someone away, you'll miss them so much eventually you'd be willing on breaking your own heart just to have one more chance at those thirty seconds, just to save yourself from goodbye. Don't be too stupid to see that. Remember those thirty seconds.

The big one: Small gestures mean big things, but don't over-complicate simple, normal behaviours and then punish someone for it, even if they know you don't mean it.

Things sometimes get messy in your head or maybe it's mine. Either way, six weeks go by and then you want space. Fucking space. While I'm a big believer in taking time outs, I have learned to be very patient over time. Sainthood is surely within my grasp.

Real talk, I could be on the fucking moon and you would say, "Well Shelley, the problem is, I can see you in the sky and that's just too close for me. Could you move to another solar system?" It doesn't matter if I'm far away, all it takes is one thought of me to tether me back to you. As long as there is a reminder of me, I'm always too close for comfort.

I get mad and then it's like something pulls the strings. I wake up when you finally decide to text me, even when there's no sound coming from my phone. I'm so in sync with you sometimes that it frustrates me even more that you take it for granted.

These things don't happen twice.

The first time someone else tried to touch me, I sent them away afterwards. I called someone who knew me better, someone who was waiting for the moment I admitted it. I said that I didn't feel anything, that I didn't know how to feel something that wasn't what you gave me. If it wasn't so maddening and brightened by magic and almosts, then what was the point of doing it at all?

If I am capable of feeling so deeply, then why settle for something so easy on the surface?

Thank you for challenging me and conquering me.

They tried to make me laugh, to treat me the way I needed. I swear, I could have punched them in the face and they would have told me to do it again. People wanted to shower me with the attention I seemed to beg for, but I didn't want it.

I think I might have loved you a little at some point.

Not in a way that meant happy endings and wishful thinking, but in a way that was sweet and hopeless.

I knew it kept me safe and made me brave but I knew it was doomed, and I tried to move palm lines and constellations, challenging the cruelties of fate. When nothing worked, I took that feeling and smothered it, taking light and life from it before it could hurt me. I turned it into something else instead, something more protective and appreciative than anything else. With all the will in the world, I couldn't stop fighting for you. I wanted you to know you meant something to someone, I wanted you to see you had so much to give.

So I embraced the thing that wasn't a thing, along with all it's complexities.

When I decided to put my foot down, I knew you wouldn't fight like I needed you to. I knew what was coming, and I did it anyway. I won't force you to show me you care, nor should I have to.

Here's what I've learned in my adult life: I've been cursed by men who are self serving, miserable fools. I've had my heart held hostage by little boys ungrateful for women that hold them high and scared of love that fills them up.

I've been taken for granted by men who are afraid to feel, so they steal things from me instead. They take shortcuts and quick thrills, they don't ever get too close until it's over. They never knew they loved me until it was too late. I never wanted you to be one of them.

I've been trying so hard to be someone you miss, but my details are lost between the lines. That sweet gingerbread smell and caramel blonde dead ends are easily forgotten. I remember how my eyeliner smudges because my eyes water when you make me nervous, but I don't know how much you see.

I'm just going to press down on us, so tell me where it starts to hurt.

I need to tell you that someone else has been running their hand through my hair, and that maybe I didn't fight it. I need to tell you that when the first one made me feel empty, that I chased that empty feeling so I wouldn't need to miss you. I need to tell you that this part of me will always stay yours, but you've left me alone and so I'm protecting my heart again. 28 and just brave enough, that fierce and annoying version of me belongs to you along with Novembers and flat whites by the water. You can keep my old scarf if it helps you to remember.

On three, we're going to feel a small, sharp scratch.

I know you're afraid and I know that I'm scared too, but I think we fear different things. If you want to lose me, tell me when you're ready. If you already are then let's get started, but don't be afraid to take my hand if it helps ease the sting.

Look at me, it's going to be okay. It'll only hurt a little while and maybe we'll feel better soon.

Here's what you need to do. Numb the area around that scared, quiet thing in your chest and count to ten, it helps if you say it out loud. Take one last look and pull me in for one final unspoken moment, and remember how it felt to keep me close. Hold on to me like an old toy you used to love, and let me rest on you for a second or two. Take a deep breath before it starts to hurt like hell.

Let me know when you start to miss me, I promise I won't say I told you so.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

The other ways of being

I've always had a distaste for arguments, even though I'm fairly skilled at coming out of them unscathed. Part of me truly believes that's the best way to get to know someone, so maybe I don't hate it all that much because every ounce of emotional intelligence I have has come from watching people, from learning them in love and in loathing.

Fighting is all about observation, it's not about the ego. You learn a person's triggers, how fast they are at fighting back, and how well they handle the stings of swordplay. You also learn the art of apologies, how to pull together words you mean with words you maybe don't because sometimes, someone else's feelings are more important than your own. You find out if they care enough to even try and apologise, or whether you're just something forgotten like the remains of a bonfire, paper burned to confetti and left behind.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

You're going to lose her

She does everything to prove to you that you won't, but one day, you'll lose your girl.

It will happen quietly and that will surprise you, because she's never been one for subtlety. It will be because of something small and not because of some great tragedy, which is maybe the most tragic thing of all. She overcomes unwanted obstacles with love so fierce it could conquer a country, but it's the small things that break her in the end.

Perhaps it was something you said, an off the cuff comment that twists in her chest in the middle of the night like a silver dart pinned to a bullseye. Bright as a blade, she still smiles at you and she means it when she does because after all, you still make her happy. She loves the challenge, she likes that you're smart and sarcastic and she can't fight the curve of the only real smile she's known since she's been new again. She doesn't have a choice in the matter.

So, why would you lose her? Maybe because you don't think that you can. Maybe it's the quiet certainty of the thing that isn't a thing, or maybe it's arrogance. Maybe, you think you'll lose her either way, so you'll let it happen.

She'll give you a hundred chances to show that you care, wishing you knew it would only take seconds to do it. She only asks for friendship and compassion, sometimes a little attention reshaped into reassurance. She doesn't want you to pretend this is something it isn't, or to hold her hand down the street. She wants you to text first if she crosses your mind, to come to her with problems or to ask her to do things if you miss her in secret.

If she tries to leave, it won't be because she wants to. You'll make the mistake of thinking you're setting her free, but a cage big enough for two is not a cage at all. It's a safe house and she takes pride in a home, so she makes sure it's always warm even if it gets messy. She fills it with safety blankets and something that could look a lot like love, but she knows better than that. She knows if she ever let it get that far, you might just let something so delicate slip through the bars.

The way she calls you annoying to your face or the way she twirls the ends of her hair through her fingers could all become things she used to do. You might want to collect your stories while you can, holding on to the way she falls apart in front of you, the boy who became her Achilles heel. You might want to save the way she looks at you when she tries to push a button or two, or the way she sings in the car as if no one will ever see her. Someday, she might just be a memory to love when you're lonely.

Words are coming to the boil, and there's so much she wants to say. For one thing, friendship is a two way street, and this thing that lives in the middle is no exception. Another thing, she's trying for you. She's trying to grow and give you what you need and she doesn't know if you even notice.

She hangs on to the way she flickers to life like streetlights standing watch over strangers, how no man has ever noticed her spark until she burns out. Life without her made them blind, and she doesn't want you to be left in the dark.

Most of the time, she would describe herself as unremarkable so she can understand why you might be okay with losing her. She's strong, a little talented and funny from time to time, but mostly she just has a smart mouth that runs on sugar. She's a natural improviser, feeling her way through life one catastrophe at a time. She has no interesting features and she describes her brown eyes as muddy puddles, but the others would tell you that they get darker once she turns on you. Wild with storms and tired from goodbyes, that final look will follow you home.

When she's around you she forgets that she's not as smart as she would like, she's people smart and occasionally book smart, but still not smart enough. She forgets that her long hair is not part of her princess personality, but just something to hide behind. She abandons the damage that's been done to her, and it's because of you.

You made her believe in herself, and in return, she believed in you too. You made her want to fight for something so she gave you the only gift she has, and tied together words on a string, wrapping up short stories for you to keep.

She's always crawled around in her skin, scraping her knees trying to be enough but always too much. You made her braver and more patient than before, and she remembers how when you took her hand, it felt like acceptance. It felt like you cared about who she was and that was enough, that's why even when you don't give her more than a few minutes at a time, she stays.

She won't leave because it gets hard or confusing, or because you piss her off with your stubbornness and total inability to compromise. She likes those things, and she's demanding and loud so you have your hands full too. She won't leave because you pull away or because someone else comes along. Even if that someone is a boy with a boat and hair almost as good as yours.

She'll leave if you forget about her, if she starts fading into the walls like ghosts in old photos. She'll leave if you take her for granted, casually ignoring the effort she makes to make your life a little brighter. She'll leave because she sinks beneath duvets and curls her hands under her chin when she knows you won't fight for her in the end. She'll leave because she has to ask herself why you didn't try.

She'll stay because she makes your life a little more fun, and you make hers so much more bearable. You give her a life built of daydreams and bad decisions and she's lighter from this thing that's the colour of clouds, hypnotic and frustrating from a chance of rain.

She keeps a photobooth strip in a notebook in her bag, a reminder of the day she refuses to write about in case she ruins it. It reminds her of arcade jingles and pound coins in cardboard cups, and the way she left two blue arcade tickets in the cup holder of your car. She leaves pieces of herself wherever she goes just in case someone needs her.

That's the girl you could lose in the end. The one who found herself when she found you, the one who only misses you when she's awake, the one who just wants to be someone you remember.

One day, you're going to lose me, you know.

You changed my life, so I'll make you a promise if you make one too. I'll leave if you want me to, but only if you promise you won't forget that I did. Maybe you could promise not to let me instead.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Tin man

I'm not sure as a little boy you ever dreamed of becoming a man made of metal and tin, but somewhere along the line it might have seemed better than any superhero you could imagine.

The greatest thing you can break is a heart so it's easy to assume that a man without one is invincible. Maybe you cursed it or tried to cut it out, but a cold man is not quite as unbreakable as you think. You might rely on yourself to light up your life, but didn't you lead my way back to something bright and didn't I leave you electrified?

Sadly for you I've always been able to see that you have one of the kindest, breakable hearts, even if it is only half of one sometimes. Unfortunately for me, your armour is sometimes so heavy I can barely feel anything beating beneath it.

I try knocking on you as hard as I can but I never know if you can feel it or hear me underneath all that metal. If I leave you behind and let it rust with time, will you start to dismantle?

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Fountains and fir trees

Staring at white Christmas lights is no way to spend a Saturday night, but everything's gone quiet and I've got nothing to do.

I've picked up my phone several times, stared at it and felt like an idiot so I've thrown it aside. I've re-curled my hair only to pull it back, twisting it away from my face so that I don't hide behind it. I've wrapped myself up in things that make me feel as warm as you do, an old grey hoodie (also known as my heartache hoodie), pyjamas with dogs on them and a single silver ring with a green stone.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Poison apples

Tapping on tables and sipping on Coke, your easiness makes me shake sometimes.

You're not a knight in shining armour and I really do not need saving, but those few seconds of my hand in yours made me think you brought part of me back to life. You seemed wary of me but so sure at the same time, but I know you'll never tell me what goes on inside that stubborn, uncertain head of yours.