Dan Keck CC
When you’re thirteen and the big kids are doing speed at your local library,
you’re not going to hold any weight if you speak like a child.
You have to look at your friend, who wants to go smoke with them, and roll
your eyes. Tell her, they’re in high school, they’re going to cut it with plaster.
You’ll remember it when you go back home to visit your parents and wonder-
driving past the old brick building—what ever happened to those kids who were
homeless by seventeen. If anyone else remembers their slouched shoulders.
Think of your friend who is now a mother, and be glad it didn’t turn out worse.
Sixteen and just starting to drink while everyone else is graduating to pills.
Late bloomer, making up the difference with indifference.
You laugh when your buddy tells you about the oxy he stole. You’re so cool
you don’t ask how much he has on him while you drive to the bowling alley.
Act put out when you’re grounded from a party where everyone will be rolling.
Know it would have been boring if you couldn’t drink quite enough to catch up.
Call an ambulance when someone OD’s. Laugh right along when they end
up fine. Say, you scared us good. Hope that you won’t be at another funeral
when you’re eighteen. Move away and lose touch instead.
Last you checked, everybody was still above ground and making it work.
Working now at the place the town’s homeless adults come to warm up for a
while, sometimes high at nine in the morning and talking to invisible buddies.
Tell your coworkers not to roll their eyes or stare if someone starts yelling or
kicking or speaking to themselves, because no one will trust you if you can’t
front indifference. You learned the best way to love another person is let them
exist without expectations. The party doesn’t end just because you walk away.
Twenty-something and wondering if it’s too late to think
different. Keep telling yourself that the worst thing you can do is seem afraid.
Jade Braden is an author and artist based in Columbus, Ohio. Her previous works appear in Sledgehammer Lit, Complete Sentence, and Warning Lines, among others. Find her on Twitter @jadewcb, online at jadebraden.com, or meandering through the Appalachian foothills.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.