Every time I thought about you, I picked at the wound, a small mosquito bite with an opening the size of a needle’s point. The bite bloomed into a rash because I could not control the itch, could not help thinking of you. You, watching soapy British TV until 2AM, because you had to get to the ending—pick. Me, learning to love black coffee because you loved it—pick. Us, meeting at the corners of a pool table in the student union, both eying the same boy—pick. I let the bite fester, as if I was collecting the hurt of having to remember; as if the widening zone of redness was physical proof I had kept you around, if not in my heart, then in my calf, because you were always somewhat practical. What’s a heart to you, when you can see the leg under rolled-up jeans, and think, ah, this girl is thinking again? Too much, you might say. But still, I pick. I pick, thinking of your bare dorm room without an ancient stuffed lion, your version of wisdom; I pick, thinking of the one night you piled six people into my one-bedroom apartment without asking; I pick, thinking how no one else let me control the AUX cord like you did in the car; I pick, because it was one of your small, tender methods of keeping me at bay, as if you knew I would burst out the side door. In fact, you used to command me: do not pick, you’re gonna bleed—but this is the only way I remember you now that we are not speaking. As if I am ingraining you; reminding myself. Pick. Let me pick. Let me do this over and over, until the skin has collected hardness like a shield, until I forget its existence altogether. I am not picking because you told me it was bad. Somewhere the scab will just fall off. The skin will heal over, scarred and shining. So when I look at the site, I think—ah, this is the story of how I broke a habit. Made peace.
Justine Teu is a writer from New York City. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Offing, the VIDA Review, Pigeon Pages, and more. Additionally, her work has received recognition from the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop and The Mendocino Writer’s Conference. She’s a graduate of Binghamton University with a BA in History and is currently pursuing an MFA in fiction at The New School. Find her at justineteu.com and on Twitter @justinecteu.
Photography by: Presley Roozenburg