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AND IF YOU WEREN'T REAL, I'D MAKE YOU UP A series of 48-word stories


To ANDREA, who gave me back my words.


I AM FIVE, YOU ARE SEVENIt's a warm Sunday and this doorway smells like cotton candy and flowers. I see you from across the street; you're handing out a twenty for ice cream, and my pockets are empty. He gives you a balloon with your cone and your smile is enough for two.


I AM SEVEN, YOU ARE NINEThe neighbors said all the kids have now grown, and that is why the playground is quiet. That day, I see you on the swing, singing; I am in the sand box in the corner, making sand castles to the sounds you're making. (I still hear you, sometimes.)


I AM NINE, YOU ARE ELEVENJust you and me and this row of books between us, in this quiet room no one ever really visits. Watching your face, I wonder about the places you've seen, about the friends you've met in those pages. I wonder if you still have space for one more.


I AM ELEVEN, YOU ARE THIRTEENRiding through the streets on my bicycle one afternoon, I see you on the steps of the big house on the corner, your legs crossed as you whisper with your friends. You all look so soft. I think, Do you have secrets? I think I finally have one.


I AM THIRTEEN, YOU ARE FIFTEENAt sunset, the tide pulls back. You're walking with a camera in your hand. I wonder: Are we seeing the same things? Are our colors of this moment the same? (Sand under my hands. In my head I hear a song, and I think, What is that sound?)


I AM FIFTEEN, YOU ARE SEVENTEENFrom the window of my bedroom, I see through yours and tonight you are packing bags and boxes and folding your clothes. I wonder: Where are you going, and why does it look like it's going to be for long, and why does this chest feel heavy, and.


(I AM SIXTEEN, YOU ARE EIGHTEEN, SOMEWHERE)The first time I step into the city, I look up and think: Finally. This night's smoke-filled air smells of something new. (I've got a mind full of wants. I've got a map in my back pocket. I'll figure it out eventually, what it is I'm looking for.)


I AM SEVENTEEN, YOU ARE NINETEENIn a restaurant off campus, I see you laughing with a group of girls, a drink in your hand. I think, At least the city has taught you well. When you smile, I shift my eyes. You're holding another girl's hand. What else has this city taught you?


I AM NINETEEN, YOU ARE TWENTY-ONEAt the record store I see you: you're smiling with your eyes closed, head bobbing to the silent beat, your fingertips in the air. I smile, thinking that one day I'll make you a mix tape full of songs that remind me of you and how this feels.


I AM TWENTY, YOU ARE TWENTY-TWOThrough the swirling lights and the cigarette smoke hanging low from the ceiling, I meet your eye from across the room and suddenly it is so clear to me, how the rest of the years ahead should go: Like this, the way this drum in my chest beats.


I AM TWENTY-ONE, YOU ARE TWENTY-THREESo this is what rhythm looks like -- the first time I see you dancing, the music shimmers off your skin. I’m already drunk by the time you’re telling me your name. Staring at your taxi disappearing at the curb, I wonder if you’ll remember in the morning.


(I AM EIGHTEEN, YOU ARE TWENTY, SOMEWHERE)On the roof on New Year’s Eve, I wonder: What are the chances of you and me under this massive sky? (I’m thinking about a girl; about the girl in your bed) Fireworks in the sky, and I think of you; you feel like explosions in my chest.


YOU ARE TWENTY-FOUR, I AM TWENTY-TWO ANDWhen I bump into you, I say, The last time I saw you, you were dancing. You blush; it makes me want to make you breakfast tomorrow, and all the days after. I’m holding a balloon in one hand. My heart’s in the other, slipping ever so slowly.



and if you weren't real