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Brace Yourself, Boy
written by: Kerri Caldwell
You’re like winter and the rest of us are summer. You kill the things you love, the things that keep you from freezing, like your heart and mind and soul and happiness. I memorize you when I leave every morning. I’m hesitant to turn the knob, certain today you’ll win the fight. You’re only happy when you win, and we can’t breathe unless you’re losing.
Brace yourself, boy
I’m a modern martyr with vibes of hopeful disappointment. A 15-year-old sophomore saint that races time and lives at the mercy of school bus wheels. I’m ready at the wait, gaining distance with limbs as strong as paper kites. The space between doors is weighed down with the ugliness I’m running to and running from. I feel the cruelty and taunts that follow me off the bus, arrows pointed at my back because I’m only ever running from the ones I only ever give silence to. But they never reach me where it counts. People are more precious than things, and these six words are a force that holds up against the evils that only exist inside of school kids.
Brace yourself, boy.
I turn the knob to find you there today, living and moving and breathing against your will. You can’t ask for the help that I wouldn’t know how to give. Like coins at the bottom of a wishing well, it’s a question you know I can’t answer. Like the prayers we say when we think God isn’t listening. One day they’ll get answered, and it’ll be the most devastating blessing.
Brace yourself, boy.
The scars of attempt and failure will surrender to success, and your winning battle will only start a losing war I’m left to suffer alone. Lives are supposed to be given, not taken, and as I run across the yard, today it feels like a battlefield. The laughter and sneers from my classmates ricochet like bullets, the engine of the school bus unable to drown out the words. They call me a sissy, shout ‘run, Forest, run.’ I am not any of the ignorant names I refuse to repeat, all because what’s important to them isn’t what’s important to me. Their opinions of me won’t save her from herself. They don’t know that it takes more courage to suffer than to die. I suffer with the absence of friends, a soul I can share my burden with. She suffers from the presence of a life that’s not being lived. I never wanted to know the courage she took from me that day.
Brace yourself, boy. Take in the scene before you and know you did more than you should’ve. Her blood is divine and dark and massive, but it’s not true what they say, blood doesn’t wash away sins. You were once her keeper, and now it’s time, and she knew. Brothers are supposed to protect their sisters from bullies and boys with intentions far from innocent. Not from sadness and too many pills and razor blades. Not from days heavy with handfuls of moments. Brace yourself, boy. You weren’t supposed to save her and that’s why you couldn’t.