You would wear lace all the time.
It was just one of those things about you that I noticed–
the snakelike layers of rice-paper fabric, ingénue-white, that swaddled your pale neck
and slim wrists;
the iridescence of a blue current of vein running through.
When I asked you why you wore it
You said you wanted people to think you were delicate
and then you laughed.
Your laughter was like tin, bright and metallic
And people like magpies
swarmed to you,
and the currents of sound ricocheted off them
raindrops running down skin.
You always loved something;
when you did
you told everyone
your speech salted with hyperbole.
And your voice when you talked was deeper than anyone would think,
almost like a boy’s
and you talked lyrically
like a modern Shakespearian.
And when you talked about something you cared about,
you hoarded words for your defense
and talked at length explaining your every position–
you were so afraid your paper words would be knocked down.
Your nails were never painted, except for your thumb–
it was the only one you could stop biting.
It was always painted midnight blue,
which made the rest of your nails, bald and chalky, even more obvious
But you didn’t care; you liked the glimpse of color among the colorless.
It was funny though because you hid yourself too–
You always wore your hair down,
a tawny swath of lion-mane
irregularly fanned around your face and shoulders and collarbones;
because it concealed the straightforwardness of your features–
the last evidence of childhood curled around your cheeks
the earnestness of nondescript eyes
that rarely blinked,
the straight tilt of your nose
the small curve of your ear,
pinned by a single pearl.
Your favorite place was in the crosshatches of sun
in front of your building.
You could talk for hours.
You would fish out a cigarette
but you never smoked them
you just liked to store them in your red leather bag–
you would open the bag and slip one out deftly
hold it between your blue-polished thumb and forefinger.
They were a prop and nothing more.
I would listen to you speak,
the sounds of the city pooling meditatively around us, rust-brick and taxicabs–
the sharpness of your voice was the only thing that made it real.
My eyes trained on the burning red embers
while trails of cotton ball smoke obscured the sky,
so sharp and blue that it hurt
behind a veil.
I wonder if you ever really saw me
or if you looked at me that way too–
my features muted
filigreed with dust
distorted with thin layers of misconception, delicate like lace
until I was just another shadow in the darkness around you.
I could see you, though.
Even if you couldn’t see me, I saw you
through the dust and lace and dark that clung
past your laugh and your sunlight.
I saw you.
Eva Johnson, Age 14, Grade 9, Hunter College High School, Gold Key