By Sara Malott
You were Shay.
You were incredibly thin,
but not as thin as the hair on your head
or as thin as that half-ply toilet paper your
father got from the dollar store
because he could afford no better.
You were Shay, my bestest friend.
You wouldn’t let me walk your dog
because you thought my hands were too
fat to hold the leash, and I believed you.
You taught me how to do cartwheels and walk
like a model because guys liked those sorts of things.
You made me laugh when we ran through
the mall in our Halloween costumes,
and we danced,
and we danced,
and we didn’t care.
When I would fall and skin my knees
trying to play basketball in gym class
you would tell me I looked dumb and
that this is why people always liked you better.
You told me where babies come from
and you told me you wanted a lot of your own some day.
Your house was never like mine.
Nothing had a certain spot,
nothing in your house ever belonged there.
I always liked that.
When we came home to eat Oreos after school
in your kitchen, we would have to watch Dr. Phil
because your dad said so. I asked what it was about
once and you told me it was people who had grown up problems,
but they were different than the kind of grown up
problems your parents had while we hid among your
stuffed animals and pretended to be rocks that couldn’t hear.
When your mother moved out of town,
you moved with her because she wasn’t your father.
Once you came back to visit your father
because that’s what the guy in charge
of your case told your mom—
even though she cried for you to stay.
I came to visit you, but the only person I saw
was a sad girl who was more bitter
than the Hershey kisses in purple wrapping
but certainly not as bitter as your new landlord
with toe hair, or as bitter as the rum cake
your mom bought you for your birthday
because it was left over on clearance from Thursday.
You made me watch basketball and fed me ramen noodles
for the first time. I turned my nose up at the noodles and stuck
out my tongue but you pinched my arm and made me eat them anyway.
Nine year olds don’t watch basketball, they watch
Disney Cartoons, but I’m pretty sure you forgot
or maybe you just didn’t care.
You slept till one in the afternoon one day and
I had to eat mini pancakes without you.
Your dad took your dog to the shelter
because he must have realized that she didn’t fit in
with the sad walls and broken picture frames.
You called the shelter to get her back but she was already gone.
Gone like my bestest friend.
You were a wild flower in a field of poppies,
out of place. But you were the focus
and you liked that.
You were Shay,
and I was Sara—
Sara who didn’t understand.