Thirteen is a different kind of regret.
It is not a regret of the past
but a silent regret of the present.
A regret that your face blushes red
as soon as your presence
is magnified by a smile,
a question, a laugh,
a moment that would exist
naturally but cannot
in a mind overworked.
A regret for a body taking form,
a shape unused
and a maturity uncalled for.
Take back the body
Thirteen would say.
Take back the braces
on the teeth
and the stickiness
of hands gone wet
Take back the newly
red blood between the legs.
Childhood ended abruptly
and so did the self.
Thirteen is an unlucky number.
Thirteen is a regret for change.
We were younger then we should have been,
when we sipped our cocktails and drank the beer.
The experience of sneaking out beyond parent’s ears,
to the bottom of the garden, that game of pretending.
They must have known as we danced while we fell,
and kissed while our lips missed the mark.
They must have known that we were a mess
waiting to happen, smeared onto our own canvases-
this is youth we would have said, this is youth
as we laughed.
I remember the experience but not the memory.
For that night had gone blank,
for all of us, as we swayed while lying down
on the grass. We all had one too many
and at sixteen it weighs heavy on the skull.
Blackout like a hole in time, as if
we dug ourselves into the edge of the garden
and stayed there. I can only piece together
the fragments that must have looked
like other nights. Trying to remember
us dancing, singing, whistling to the songs
that we hated on the radio because
we were cooler than that, all because I liked
those fragments the most. Trying to remember
that we were safe.
Seventeen and I wished my wound
would glimmer against the surgeon’s knife.
Pull out the ache from the edges of my skin
like an unthreaded ribbon. The longing,
whose teeth hit me in classrooms and parties
where men and women were just girls and boys.
The longing that existed in bells that rang
like a clock on cocaine, in desks
with scrubbed out graffiti,
in shoes that stank in summer.
A longing that came when the iron gates
closed for the day which felt like any other.
It was the listlessness you can only get at seventeen.
The mundane had become too mundane,
the boredom was an itch that couldn’t be scratched.
What were we hoping for?
What were we truly wishing to happen?
I decided to be lost
To the feeling of abandonment
Finding the liquor in the water
And the dance in a lonely-filled room
Where I listened to Cuban music
And swayed to a mildly done
Sense of release
I could never truly finish self-destruction
Always too fragile to truly fall
I would have kept the apple
Instead of biting into it.
Is this weakness?
I tell myself it is enough that
I like to smoke cigarettes
Chariklia Martalas is a Philosophy, Politics, English and History graduate from the University of the Witswatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her work has been featured in Rigwelter Press, Isacoustic, The Raw Art Review, Loch Raven Review, Bending Genres and the undergraduate literary journal The Foundationalist.
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