I think I owe a thank you to the girl with long black hair – twisted and clipped up in seminars, trailing down her back in dresses and up my nose when she lay next to me at night. I miss the awkward kisses, fingers trailing down bodies’ sides, each thinking ‘is this okay? Am I doing alright?’ I miss kissing her thighs. Thank you to the girl whose gasps still play in my head when I am lonely. Just gals being pals.
Except, I also want to thank her because she was a pal, because she saw me cry and shake, with lumps in my throat, voice cracking and body in breakdown shivers. She saw my bitter hatefulness, my anger, and she stayed. She kissed me for the last time while it was still dark outside, both of us with morning breath (we’d had maybe two hours of sleep) and we said goodbye. That night she’d let me rest with my arm beneath her curving neck.
She called me on the anniversary of his death. She let me cry without reservation. She maybe didn’t understand, but she tried. She knew there were feelings more important than jealousy. She listened. She empathised. She was reasonable. I think that this, more than anything, is love.
I thank the girl for showing me that intellect doesn’t have to be cutting and cruel, that there can be talent without unjust superiority, that listening is valuable and kindness is free. I thank the girl for honesty, for building boundaries, for frank discussions about our feelings. I thank the girl for unceasing support, for love and loyalty, and for offering me beauty amongst so much pain. I thank the girl whose kisses remind me that I am a human, the girl whose body dips inwards for my arm’s perfect placement, who speaks to me so gently that even in my worst state I know that we are safe.
Perhaps if the world was as kind and open-minded as she is, if there weren’t so many oceans between us we could still be together, forever wrapped up under bedsheets, tasting necklines, feeling pretty. Life doesn’t work that way but I can thank her.
So, to the girl:
Thank you. I love you. You’re welcome back anytime.
Cathleen Davies is a writer and publishing assistant from East Yorkshire. You can find examples of her poetry and short stories at: Literally Stories, Zines + Things, The Confessionalist, Storgy, The Maine Review, Miracle Monocle, various UEA anthologies, and Dostoyevsky Wannabes Love Bites. She co-runs Aloka, a magazine for non-native English speakers. You can find her on Twitter at @THECathyDavies or at her website.