An Urban Apology

i am sorry i am sorry iamsorry iam-
choking on words
none of this was to offend you to make you doubt yourself
the late nights were for me, me, me
i promise all we do is talk and laugh and argue
they like my cateyed liner on my lids
how it makes me look a sphinx
sometimes we walk on the baking asphalt together
i’ll lean against the chain link fence
and pretend i’m in the 80s
i am not a bad girl iamnota
i promise
i make promises? see. to make promises you must be good
you must be healthy you must be prim-straight-proper
you must be
sharp and bleach and tiled floors
the dark nights aren’t for you
they aren’t for me either
they are for this city
look out at the rooftops
where teenage girls are saying goodnight to their boyfriends and then staying up late
these late nights are for them
because they don’t know the city yet
not like i do
if they look out, lean over the edge of that roof
and see the lights blinking out at that them

people call me a bitch
because i never pretend to be happy
but when i am happy i am giddy schoolgirl cliche happy summervibe singsong
i make you step back
i see the doubt in your face as you pretend to laugh with me
i am grassgreen i am grassgrowing i am grassgoing
i am nature and little ladybugs who don’t even know what i am
i don’t like being labelled
but i label myself
maybe that’s why i don’t like myself
i am most sorry for scaring you.
i don’t like the word regret because it sounds like forget but truly
i regret making us both be alone
i can name these things splayed out on the table in front of us
point point point
strip of velvet, advil, a doodle i ripped out of my math notebook, the bracelet you bought me for
christmas last year
i don’t even wear bracelets but i told you i liked it
because i knew it cost money
“but everything costs money sweetie”

“not everything”

i can quote you as you say those words for the first time
anticipate the shape of your mouth as you yell at me
but you don’t know me
do you?
i don’t even know myself
the city knows me
how i can walk down an alley and see into every pore of the buildings
see the tea lights and little dirt covered bugs scurrying down the staircase
how i can drink coffee in a bathtub, fire escape, bench outside a hospital where i know no one
these early mornings are not for you
i am yrors
i am sorry
they are not to make you angry or mad
they are to make the grass grow in that little corner right before i walk into the subway station
they are for that little bridge and that vast world and for the people who have never gotten
to experience new york
i must soak everything in just in case someone out there in the world never will
do you understand?
please believe me
this is not for you

Eleanor Mammen, Age 14, Grade 9, Hunter College High School, Gold Key

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