You were who I ran to when I was afraid. When the ground was ice-over and freezing and my bare feet were so numb I couldn’t feel them as I ran. And ran. And ran.
I was scared and I was angry. I was a thin t-shirt and sweatpants, tears and a cold heart. I was a fight with my mom and nowhere else to go. So I ran to you. Found shelter in your walls because I trusted you.
That year was hard. I butted heads with my mother, I tested my limits, I rebelled because I was tired of what I had always known and I wanted to know, for myself, who I was and who I could be.
So I trusted you.
So I searched for shelter that night, when I was so cold and crying so hard I could no longer feel anything.
In your walls, I sought solace. I learned to style my hair, to put eyeliner around my lids, to stick my lips out in pictures. I navigated messes and smells of coffee and warm bread and learned to love a family that wasn’t my own.
I watched movies and listened to music, I took pictures in a basement and played truth or dare. I became a thin shadow of who I used to be. But I loved myself.
It was with you, that I learned friendship. That I learned laughter and cigarettes and birth control and boys. That I learned gossip and distrust and anger and hatred. That I learned words like ‘bitch’ and ‘slut’ and ‘fake’ and ‘whore.’ That I first encountered heartbreak. That I looked for love in a friend instead of a mother.
But then you broke me, Malvina Court. You took my heart and pulled it apart, ripped it to shreds so thin and fragile that I no longer identified them as my own. You were everything I needed, but everything that destroyed me. The place I had turned to, that had betrayed me just the same. The girl I had loved, but who had turned her back.
It has been years since then. Almost ten, to be exact. Ten years and memories and friends and laughter since then. We have fallen back together, fallen out, moved worlds and colleges and lovers and life-changing events apart.
I passed you the other day, stopped to admire the street sign at the end of your block, drove by to see if your shutters were still worn, if there was still that rusted hoop at the edge of your driveway, if the blinds were still creased in the front right window.
I haven’t talked to you in years. I wonder if you’re happy.
I hope you know I forgive you for being the first girl to break me. We were young and naïve. I was scared and angry and unsure of who I was. It was you who taught me. Gave me strength to stand on my own when you walked away.
I hope you know a part of me will always love you.
You with the lip ring and the blonde hair and the tattoo on your chest. You with those dangerous blue eyes who taught me to not be afraid of who I was, who I could become. You who taught me that love comes and goes, but love reaches us in many places. That love gives us places to call home when we’re running with bare feet on ice, because we don’t know what home is. That love hurts, but is a cycle. Something we return to. Something we find, unexpectedly, in houses with worn shutters and girls with ice blue eyes, welcoming us in.