Everything Thatís Happening Has Already Happened
Destiny O. Birdsong
You have already been in the fourth grade
and had your first perm. You already believe
jars on shelves can make you beautiful, so
you grease your hair with so much Blue Magic
its blonde has a green tint in sunlight.
Your sister has already called you a “genetic freak”
because she is in the sixth grade, and her friends
ask too many questions, so she spits at you
the words that will one day eat holes in your intestines.
You have eyes that cross—sometimes out,
sometimes in—so tetherball is hard to play.
You’ve spent recess after recess squatting along the edge
of the playground, dreaming of what you cannot see,
eating the honeysuckle that grows through the chain-link fence.
Your teacher has already threatened you with what she knows:
that stray dogs go there at night, but you
have spent most of your life chasing sweet,
like the time your friends told you that the new kid—
the green-eyed one, whose buttery skin and California swag
made him immediately popular in this small town—
has a crush on you, but is too shy to tell you himself,
so he wants you to meet him near the edge
of the playground.
Near your fence.
Near your honeysuckle.
So you run to him, but he keeps moving farther away,
and you think maybe it’s just your eyes, which, even now,
are always slightly out of focus—you can never
see things for what they really are. Though you saw
his Cross Colors jersey, a jumping, bright blip
kiting across the lime-colored grass
of a town you already dream of leaving.
You’ve already decided it’s best not to ask
if he was in on it.
Your friends have already laughed at you.
You’ve already forgiven them because
you’re already afraid of losing people
the way your mother is losing her teeth,
which she brings home in tiny envelopes still warm to the touch.
You are already accustomed
to handling other people’s dead things.
Two days later, while your friends were still
hiding giggles behind their hands, you mixed together
raw egg and paprika and poured them on the kitchen floor.
No one would come close enough to tell
it wasn’t vomit, so you stayed home from school, watching Garfield
on a pallet you made in the living room.
You love Garfield, perhaps because, somehow, you know
most of your sorrows will demand his kind of sleep.
Your mother, with her new job and her new
insurance card, has taken you to the new
hospital, where a nurse prescribed bananas,
rice, applesauce, toast, told you to come back
in two weeks if symptoms persist. Your mother has already
laid hands on you in the car, palms at your temples.
They smelled like bleach, and that made you want to cry.
There are real diseases stirring in you that she
cannot pray for because they don’t yet have names.
But there are already rooms you cannot enter.
There are already people you can’t look in the eye.
first appeared in Indiana Review