1. You made me hard. You kept me running. Everyday was a carousel ride, round and round and round but never any closer to your heart. I spent hours at the fortune teller’s tent but she sealed her lips and only pointed to the kissing booth. Three years at this carnival, every other month, and yet I never came home with a prize. I’m still spinning. Somehow I blame you for the way I love with empty hands and all the doors locked. Sometimes I blame you for the way I haven’t stopped running.
2. I’m sorry your father gave you gifts you didn’t want. You were beautiful and I could see that from three thousand miles away. I wanted to meet you. I wanted to know you. I wanted to hold you in the palm of my hand. I remember staring at the screen and praying for that little green light, Gatsby style. You spoke in music. You always did. But your dreams shifted with every cycle of the moon and like the tides, they pulled you ever farther away from me. I’m sorry I left you for a lullaby I could hold.
3. I met you at the best time and at the worst time. I’m sorry for twisting the clouds in your chest into a storm and then running for shelter from the rain. Straight into the arms of someone else. You still deserve a wedding gown. You still deserve a ring. Don’t unpromise these things because of me. The softness in you is still good. I didn’t deserve to break all of this first. Please don’t be afraid to bring these beautiful things in you to light. You are made of every color and I’ll always remember how that looked. Especially after storms. You wrote me a thousand letters and I can’t recite them back to you but I kept them. Even if I couldn’t keep you. My little sparrow. My little lamb. I’m sorry I had to set you free.
4. I came to you homeless and searching. I came looking for a bandage for the wounds I gave myself. I asked you to love the darkest parts of me before I showed you any light, the broken parts when you didn’t know that I used to be whole. It’s warmer where you live but you managed to leave me out in the cold. Some things aren’t meant to be. You said it’ll be okay someday and I hope it will be, with him. I hope you’re doing well. I still hope you’re doing well.
5. I haven’t left you yet. But I will. It is tattooed on the back of my neck where someone else kissed me for the first and last time. All the fingerprints they left make it so hard to hold you. Please don’t tear up your skin looking for answers. Eighteen years and I’m still dizzy. I’m sorry I’ll leave you spinning too, the taste of cotton candy and licorice and gravel. Always burning. In the back of your throat.
In the back of your mind.”
— Ode to the girls you have left. Elizabeth McNamara