remember the year we skipped your birthday?
you watched the hands and legs on the face of the clock and tried to make sense of the clown's noses, prong teeth and drooling drips of time, layered on the rims of your auburn hair and spilling down onto the contours of your whipped and beaten eyes like chocolate milk. we dyed your hair that day, purple, spilled wine and mauve egg yolk, and we told you that you didn't have to age if you didn't want to, we told you that the ten-second rule applied to things like beauty and innocence, and we told you that you could be a child until peter pan came for you and you didn't have to watch the clock anymore, just the sleeve of night sky, riddled with stars.
but when we told you these things we were constructing mental memorials, maybe somewhere on the mantle where strangers could come in and leave gentle commentary about how beautiful you were when your hair was long and how big your grassy eyes were, like they were leaving presents under a tree that had already wilted, trying to detract from the obvious browns and grays of the thing. in our heads, we had images of sitting on the toilet seat with the lights and vent on, sobbing into palms that couldn't bear our face, hands like twisted versions of the roots of trees, like we could blossom something, and it was beautiful and artistic and painful. in our minds, we were already building you towers, houses, naming small fluffy children of nature after you, watching clouds that were shaped like your ears, pointing out donuts that were the same color as your complexion -- because in our heads, you were already gone.
and that year we didn't ask you what friends you wanted at your party, because we knew you didn't have any, because you knew you would smile like a good kid and make up a name, "well maybe jeannie and sheryl and christopher," but then you'd turn and look out the car window and bite your lips with all the other names you could've come up with, in your head is spinning the faces of classmates whose backs you watch, trying to form jigsaw puzzles out of their flesh. you dream of romances, of subtle kisses shared between closed mouths and sewn-fabric hearts that beat outside your nerves, and in all of these situations, compliments and thumbnails, there is a gentle prelude of casualness, there is a beautiful feeling of solitude, even as you watch your pseudo-lover snuggle in closer, near the figment that is the crook of your arm. no, we didn't want to acknowledge just how alone you are, kid.
because in our heads, we playing dirges, in our heads we were dreaming of the silver days when we stick apples in your mouth and watch the casket go under and silently curse ourselves for all the added romanticisms we didn't add into your speeches, all the memories we didn't cover, all of the buried touches and mournful gazes we may have exchanged that we couldn't have documented with mere words. instead we crotched situations in which we were forced to cry for fear that the plants might leech up and grab us by the ankles if we didn't break.
these aren't lies, kid, these aren't. when peter pan comes for you, we will never stop thinking about you, we will build you towers suitable of princesses and memorials to hide your young flaws, your forgivable immaturity, your undisguised filth.
we said you didn't have to have your birthday, kid, so we colored your hair and went home and pretended we were crazy and spontaneous, pretended we spoke in color and pretended that we dreamed in a color other than gray, pretended that being young forever was a place that you could be physically.
but your birthday still happened, kid, and you aged. and when the funeral did come, we stopped and wondered where we went wrong, if we dyed it the wrong color or if peter pan is by your window now, cursing himself for being twenty years too late.
our mantle place is bare.