PUBLISHED: October 2019
I would sit next to you in math class and listen
To names roll off your tongue.
Names that I could attach to faces of other students
Walking in the hall.
Bodies built up by the words you spoke.
I would hold on to every letter,
Because it was my only way of knowing
About the lives of kids, I chose not to talk to.
You would lean over and stare at my paper, squinting
At the scribbles, trying to turn them into numbers.
So I would spend the period explaining it all to you.
Then in English, you would hand me a Sour Power Straw.
My sugar-coated fingers would smudge your paper
As I read your most personal words.
And you corrected the spelling of mine.
We walked to our next class knowing that some kid
Placed next to us in a computer-generated seating chart
Wasn’t supposed to know what we were crying about last night.
I found myself tallying everything you said
So maybe I could find a place next to your friends at lunch,
Or hold the same subway pole riding home from school.
Though I could never find enough courage to talk to you,
Not when we weren’t at the same table
With the same worksheets, with the same lesson
To guide us in the right direction.
And so, I realize who I’ll miss the most:
You, and the ones I only ever spoke to in class.
Written by Justine Tapert