All I’ve Ever Known

She laughs, as if this is all she’s ever known. Happiness and flower crowns, and not feeling alone. And when he grabs her hand, a twinge within twists and fights. As much as I may struggle to break free, it plays in my mind that I can’t let go. It keeps a hold of my soul. 

This is all I’ve ever known.

I must have been staring, because he catches his eyes in mine and gestures me over. I didn’t see that, I pretend, until she calls.

“Hey Jen,” she says. Her voice dances as she speaks. Inflections and peaks make it to be so musical and sweet, that I can’t help but almost hate her for it. I was born with a low, gravelly noise of a voice. Some people have it all, while others are gifted with none. 

The feeling of grass under my hands – as they sit so closely to his which just held hers, – isn’t as nice as it seems in the movies. Mucky fingertips push the hair from my face, which the wind demands remains there in place. Every breath is stifled as I remember their love exists. And our love does not, except in the darkest depths of my mind.

“How are you?” I’m asked, so innocently. 

If only I could tell the truth. I’ve seen more pain than you’ll ever know. Even though I’ll never tell that I want you more than I want to wake up each morning (why bother with the embarrassment when I know you feel nothing), I want you to know that I’m glad it’s not me you chose. My mind rains on me every single day, and I couldn’t share that cloud with you.

“I’m good, thanks. How are you both doing?” I ask. He smiles and says they’re good too, and she asks is he only good and not great, and she giggles as he tickles her rolling around on their blanket. Then they both collapse in a mess of limbs, as comfortable as two people can ever be, both hysterical.

I feel the urge to lie that I have somewhere to be, but hearing that laugh is so bittersweet.

“Any news?” she asks. Every question she airs sounds full of childlike curiosity. There’s a sense of naivety in the way she works her way through the world. Like she’s never known what it is to struggle. Lucky her.

But why would she, when she’s got it all sorted out? She knows who she is, and what she’s not. She’s got him looking at her as if she means everything and more. How does it feel to be adored by the person you’d never give up? 

Sometimes she looks at me like a threat, and I regret that she’s so naive. And more than anything, I regret that just because I’m a girl, she’ll never really see me.

Can I keep going, unloved and alone? Without someone like her whose love and affection I can call my own?

“No, no.”

But this is all I’ve ever known.

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