I thought she wasn’t going to stay for long
I met her at a park when I was 10 years old
She said she was lonely, that she needed a friend
So I held her hand.
My mother took us to the beach one day
She told us how the sea had strange powers,
that it reminded you how to breathe just by watching it.
She explained to us, in the way she told stories,
How the waves touched the rocks with gentle caresses
and landed kisses on the white sand.
When my mother turned away, my friend whispered to me
It’s violent like a monster.
It has so much rage. Like it’s angry at us.
One time, when a teacher called me to her office
to discuss my work, my friend kept telling me
“You must have done something wrong.
You must have gotten a bad grade.
You must have spelled that word wrong.”
And so like that she counted the ways I might have screwed up
on her fingers.
I let out a small laugh
though my palms were starting to clam up and my knees felt weak.
Some years passed
I made other friends
Friends who gave me their phone numbers
But every time I would send them a text and waited for their response
My friend made me check my phone
Then a few times more
All in the span of five minutes
And if there was still no response, we’d argue
“They’re probably busy,” I’d say
“They don’t want to talk to you,” she’d say.
“They must have not checked their phone.”
“Maybe you said something wrong.”
My friend started sticking around a lot more.
One time, when I was waiting to meet a colleague from work at a café,
she insisted that I had left the stove on at home,
even when I reassured her I hadn’t.
She said something about the house erupting in flames
if I didn’t go home right then.
I eventually had to leave
It was the fourth time I had cancelled the meeting.
I didn’t understand why nobody else could see my friend
I wondered if anyone else had a friend like that
Who kept them up at night so they could either rewind past conversations
in their head countless of times
or play out scenarios perfectly so they wouldn’t
have to face reality.
I wondered if they also had someone who
made them change their outfits 5 times before leaving the house
only to constantly remind them to check their bag in case
they had left the keys at home
even if they hadn’t.
Who pushed a hand inside their chest and
grabbed their heart in their fist and made it beat faster and faster
until they felt it would burst from the seams.
Who made them stay home with a tempting offer to be wrapped in a blanket.
and read a book
instead of to face the world
because they just want to make them feel safe.
To protect them.
“This world is too much for you,” they’d say.
“You’re not ready.”
My friend doesn’t want to leave
She has no luggage she can pack up and move out
She says she is the safest person I’ll ever know
And maybe she’s right.