Luci Kirlin

Learning How to “Do Relationships”

Image of human outline
Liability by Wren Leyva


but I bend over myself
I try to throw up every horror rooting in the pit of my stomach
I sit down in the corner of the school bathroom and take off my shirt
I feel the cold plasticy walls against my back
and grasp with crossed arms
the edges of my collar bones
I memorize each part that wasn’t hit or hurt
I try to settle into the spaces
but when he grabs my jaw and won’t let me turn away it destroys every notion of safety in the parts of me uninjured

but for him
he’s only trying to kiss his girlfriend
he’s only seventeen
then again

aren’t I only sixteen
I put back on my shirt.


he fleets his palm to my cheek
if face warm and hand cold
he’ll ask if he ought to leave
it will break him a little to know he’s the reason my stomach knots so cruelly
it will break me to know it breaks him
I’ll tell him not to worry
I want him to stay
he’s still home.


he doesn’t grab my jaw anymore
he’s gentle
god I don’t think a dandelion fluff could be gentler than that finger on my chin

he is still home
his chest is still my bed

he tells me I am his life now
he tells me lots of other things that I didn’t think anyone would ever tell me

but it frightens me
I tell him no
I can no more be your all
than your nothing
you are your all

I don’t know if I should say that
maybe this is how relationships work
being each other’s whole
I won’t tell him
but he’s mine
it terrifies me
as though this petrifying vulnerability is a hummingbird’s egg
asking to be shattered

maybe that’s just love

love he calls me
I look at him
I breathe
he’s still home

-moments of terror and all-encompassing doubt

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