by Laura Read

Erin is sitting on the floor
of our dorm room.
Erin with the thick red braid
and the freckles the sun had tossed
across her face. Erin who is pretty
and brave and knows how to talk to boys
and knows that the party we are going to
fills my mouth with a metal taste
like you get from a school drinking fountain
and brings me a plastic cup from the keg.

The room for aerobics is lined with mirrors.
I stand in the back row
so I can follow the other girls,
so I will only see their bodies in the room
and the mirror, not my own.
In the front row, in the corner,
there’s a girl who looks like a stick drawing,
the kind I do with the kids I babysit
because I don’t know how to make a real body.
I am thinking this when the girl turns.

Erin still likes school.
In class, we write down everything
the professor says. When he tells us
that in literature to die means
to have an orgasm,
we are embarrassed but we also think
he is beautiful. We sit in the grass
with our textbooks open. She teaches me
how to open the stem of a dandelion
and push another one through.

Erin visits me in France
and because other women do it,
and men even, we walk through
the whole city with our arms linked.
I can’t think of anything
but how her arm is touching mine.

I visit her in the hospital.
I bring balloons.
Her hair is feathers, her body driftwood.
There are no mirrors. Only one of her
in the narrow bed.

I get drunk at Erin’s wedding
and cry on her white dress
which has beads that hurt my eyes
and I think I leave a smear of mascara.
This is what it will always be.
She never speaks to me again.