I was not there to witness this choice, though I had seen you make poor choices before—the destruction of homes, the death of the pet, the photographic evidence. I remember aftermath. I remember meeting you on a day when we all wore boats on our chests, meeting you in a day before we understood irony, meeting you when you found the one I had lost, before you became the one I had lost. If these were all lies, these lies would be too much, too cinematic, too neatly constructed. But these things are true: I remember a time before you were unruly. I remember a time when I wore your clothes. I remember a time before students took over the neighborhood. I remember how, when it hurt me to breathe, the doctor said the layers of my lungs could not pass smoothly against one another. She said they should glide like satin sheets, said the infection caused them to catch and hurt. When it happened, I was hidden under sheets. We woke, and it was already finished. It did not involve sacrifice or compassion, no saviors, no heroics. We woke, and we were dumb, uncertain of details, certain we did not want details, secure that nothing could assuage us from the things which now were. It has always been about artifice, but the lie of loveliness is no longer white. I would say it is scarlet, but that, too, is fanciful. I know that the waters are murky, that silt catches in your throat if you try to swallow. I know that the cavity of your mouth was filled with things that should never have filled it. You filled a space you should have left vacant, there where you landed, there when you left.

Elizabeth Wade holds degrees from Davidson College and the University of Alabama. Her poetry and prose appear in Kenyon Review Online, DIAGRAM, the Oxford American, The Rumpus, and others. She lives in Fredericksburg, VA, where she often walks her dog on roads once traveled by both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.