That Lie

You had blond hair that you said was strawberry,
but I never saw the red in it, even when you held it up to the sun and said See?
I just didn't, and I didn't care to lie about it,
because I thought it was ridiculous when you pouted about that sort of thing.
The vanity of little girls escaped me.
I did see how the ends of your pigtails curled to little points, though,
where you had sucked them into crusted arrowheads;
they bounced against the shoulder blades that stuck out through your thin t-shirts.
All big teeth and glasses that made me sweat in the sun,
I was envious of your smallness, your swayback bum, your simpleness.
When I slept over at your house, we rolled around under tents made of bedsheets,
and later we would stare at the thin light coming through the linens
and talk in hushed breaths until your mother came to tell us to sleep.
We shook out our giggles. She didn't know about our hands under the covers.
Your mother taught you about cleaning your face and moisturizers and makeup,
and you, in turn, tried to bestow these secrets upon me
with the application of blue eyeshadow and lipgloss.
I wore these things heavily around my shoulders like a sodden blanket
and cried when I went back home to wash off the filth,
because you and your mother and everyone else could not see I wasn't like that.
You started liking boys, and we became far apart somehow;
one autumn day we walked home from school together,
and it was another year before we did it again.
Remember how we used to sit in the tree so we could talk alone? you said,
so we climbed the bigger of the two trees in your yard. Its limbs felt harder.
You shifted to separate your knees from mine. I think we'd grown.
Do you remember our sleepovers? I asked.
I don't remember what we did, you said.
Your lie winnowed its way into a point of pain behind my eye.
I climbed down from the tree and thought all the way home
about how I cried every time I saw you before when you erased me with makeup,
but how this time I cried because I wasn't a dirty, little secret anymore;
I was invisible.
I remembered how I used to sneak the ends of your braids between my lips
and break down the hardness of your dried saliva with my own wet mouth,
because some things that seemed ugly or disgusting weren't anymore
when you loved someone.

(also published at Schmoetry)