my father’s best friend slaps a five dollar bill into my hand the night I turned twenty-one and tells me he knows my dad would want to buy me a beer. but all I can think is, I would’ve hoped he’d be sober by now. and my friends take me out, and I drink and I laugh; but when I get home I can barely stand. I wake up with a water bottle next to me, and I don’t know how it got there; all I can think is maybe there are people we can’t see, maybe the people we’ve lost never actually leave; maybe they’re there for the nights when we can’t stand and the mornings when our mouths are deserts. but my brother tells me he put the water there; and part of me sad to think that my dad never did look out for me anyway.
I smoke cigarettes in a parking lot with a boy who calls me Red. he tells me he wants to take me out while he texts his girlfriend back; and I just laugh and blow smoke into the sky. I am tangled in a ghost’s sheets and he tells me that he loves another girl, but my body is like honey he says; he says he can’t keep his hands off me, and I realize ghosts can’t touch you anyway. I pick my clothes up off the floor, and leave the jewelry he gave me behind.
there’s a girl on the bar, and she’s got bruises all over her thighs and I wonder about her family. I have a cold beer in my hand, and there’s still tequila on my tongue. a boy tells me he likes girls who have less curves than I do, and think about the way my bones used to press against my skin; how some days I wished my hip bones would tear me open, that I could spill out of this body and be rid of it once and for all. he buys me another shot anyway, and he’ll be in the room next to me while his friend latches onto my waist and buries my face and my worth in his sheets. I drive home and look at my own thighs and I name the bruises after the things I’ve lost.
I told that boy and all of his pictures to go away; and I stopped visiting the cemetery where I buried myself. I stopped drinking vodka and tequila, and I stopped thinking about that girl dancing on the bar. I stopped thinking that ghosts would take care of me, and I realized that the lump in my throat was a fistful of shame that I couldn’t spit out. I watched the leaves turn gold and the pumpkins rot, and I haven’t kneeled in front of a headstone in years. there is a fuy taste that guilt leaves on your tongue; it’s like copper and blood. I keep a bottle of rum under my bed, but it mostly tastes like fire, and I can’t afford to set myself ablaze for another year."
1. If he doesn’t answer, don’t keep sending texts. If he wanted to talk to you, he would’ve responded.
2. People will make time for you when they care about you. If he says he’s too busy or constantly cancels his plans, he doesn’t care. People fight for you when they care.
3. Don’t let him touch you on the first date. If he tries, he’s not there for the same reasons you are.
4. You can tell a lot about a person by their favorite book.
5. If he can stomach more than ten straight shots without feeling a thing, he drinks too much.
6. Ask the uncomfortable things. When was the last time he was so high he couldn’t speak? What does he regret the most? Does he drink to remember or to forget?
7. Don’t send pictures unless you want to. If he has to talk you into it, don’t do it. If you hesitate, don’t do it. If you do take a picture, don’t include your face. Keep yourself safe.
8. If you can’t laugh when you’re having sex with him, maybe you aren’t sleeping with the right person. Sex isn’t about tricks and tips and routines.
9. If he hurts you, cut him out. He’s gone, he isn’t coming back, and you don’t need to prolong the pain.
10. Don’t be afraid to open up again. I promise not everyone will love you with a knife behind their back."