Marissa Cooper is my girlfriend, and she is sad
this morning, and all other mornings. I unwrap
two clementines for us, pull off a single slice
in case she will eat. She contorts her features
until I’m looking at her I’m-about-to-cry face.
I am with Marissa Cooper. Something terrible
is about to happen. She is withdrawn and pale,
sort of sweaty. She is having an anxiety attack,
so I grab her face and start kissing her, around
her mouth first, then on the lips as the hunger
builds. This is how we solve problems. Kissing
is comfort, love miraculous. Marissa Cooper sits
in my lap at the club while beautiful long-haired
boys sing. I feel infatuated, even when she drifts
away, first mind and then, always, body, pushing
through to the bar, wandering down to the beach
with the bartender. She says she doesn’t want me
to come see her again, but when I lean closer,
whisper about scars, about disorder, addiction,
she calms like a bird in a blanket-covered cage.
There is much to share about our mothers, another
hour up and down the boardwalk, or at the rail
shouting to be heard over the ocean and heavy
rain. She is mine for now, wasted, with sand
in her hair. When she collapses near curfew and
I call for an ambulance, they recognize her name.
It is not the first time this month. Is she
malnourished, they ask, and I say probably.
Just come. Bring everything. For several minutes,
only the sound of muffled voices in hot debate.
Don’t worry, Marissa Cooper, I tell her, someone
will save you.
She has earned her points today
by eating both triangles of toast
and wonders why this doesn’t score her
an unsupervised shower. The nurse
trains unapologetic eyes on her
with her defense all picked out,
the slur of lunatic on her lips.
Nothing you feel is justifiable.
I tell the woman on the phone
I am her sister, and she lets me
through. Next, to choose what to say.
There is never enough time to say
everything. She talks about check-in,
how they took her hair ties.
The dreams come immediately. She is
stretched out on the bed like always,
and I know I shouldn’t leave her, but
I’m too thirsty to stand it anymore,
so I back out slowly, holding her in sight
until the last second, until she laughs.
if I wear my jean jacket, you will wear yours too;
at least, I think that’s how this works. Thursday
we sit on that disgusting couch on the fourth floor,
say a little about suicide, a little about god,
a little about the terrible week we’re both having,
of course. you say you would not hurt yourself if
there is a chance you would go to hell. I say
nothing. there is no hell and no reason, as far
as I’m concerned, to hold back, but when can you
convince anyone of faith? Monday you tend to
the chandeliers. I watch you climb the step ladder
to the ceiling, fearless, but only if indifference
counts (I can’t help but think anything counts in
calculations of courage), which is not to say
you want to fall. you just don’t not want to fall.
we’re friends, aren’t we, I think, sort of best
friends, so why haven’t I heard this from you?
Tuesday I put on my never grow old, never die
shirt and go about my normal day as if life is
a performance piece created for the purpose
of posing and answering the question: which part
is more important, the never growing old or
the never dying? you don’t have the right shirt
to mirror me this time, though you surely have
your own brand of confusion, and all you can say
when I find you is that angst looks good on me.
don’t you know I’ve suspected all along?
Lauren Bender lives in Burlington, VT. Her work has appeared in IDK Magazine, The Collapsar, Gyroscope Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Yes Poetry, and others. You can find her on twitter @benderpoet.