I wore plastic heart-shaped sunglasses from the dollar store paired with fault lines
around my mouth. Amy Winehouse bluesed on the radio as I crawled through the cavernous hill country
to find you. At your rehab, no, no, no, recovery center, you asked how’s school and I said good
though I’d spent sophomore year bumming time and menthols from strangers and excavating
the lyrics of every song I loved to sing with you from the cavities of liner notes in our big book of CDs.
Your rehab dorm was a grotto dank with second hand smoky quartz and pamphlets with titles like Nothing Changes
if Nothing Changes. Your roommate drank cocktails of vanilla extract and Listerine and I imagined gargling with shards
of creme brûlée. It had only been two weeks since you drove me to school with a Big Gulp of cabernet in the cupholder.
I thought I was good at keeping secrets but I was so sick, already, of therapists embellished in amethyst lecturing me on how to heal.
When you [blank] I feel [blank] and [blank]. Mom, when you drink I feel blank and like joining you.
When you returned I bleached my hair blonde and wore faux-fur coats paired with chunky gemstones and stalagmites
of fingers clenched tight around sparkling bottlenecks. The light at the mouth of the cave
was a mirror. I was yours and you were mine and we were the same, life-drunk junebugs spelunking through unrelenting hurricanes, only twelve steps from safety in any direction. But for the grace of you go I.
Ten years later when it was my turn to go, I asked if you were getting back at me and you said no, no, no.
You’re getting back at yourself.
Pepper Cunningham (she/her) is a writer and teacher who hails from Texas but now calls home the mountains of Vilcabamba, Ecuador. She spends her free time writing by the river, making collages, and marveling at the sheer amount of unrecognizable beetles and butterflies that live in her garden. Pepper is currently the Translation Editor at MAYDAY Magazine. She can be found on Twitter @pepwriteswords.