She used to bake.
That is, honestly,
the very first thing you remember
whenever you hear her name.
Then, like the floodgates have been opened,
you remember a million other things -
the shape of her nose,
the single freckle gracing the end of her nose,
the gap between her two front teeth,
the way she would drink tea before bed,
the way she would rise with the sun,
the scent of her hair,
the day she cut it all off,
the way she started smoking again,
the way the smoke clung to her clothing
(like the scars you tried to ignore)
the way new red lines found their way onto her hips,
the way you would hold her hips,
the way you could cover them with your hands and pretend they weren't real,
the way she left you.
And then you find your way back to the first thought:
She used to bake,
and with that thought comes a vivid image.
She had asked you what you wanted for your birthday
and you said brownies because why not.
You like chocolate, and she was offering.
So you watched as she measured this,
cracked the eggs
and beat in the flour
and poured the batter.
All the while you marveled at how
she could chain-smoke through all of this
lighting one cigarette after another,
and never once dropping even a bit of ashes into the batter.
Once she dropped the pan into the hot oven, she retracted her hand,
but not before brushing her forearm across the edge of the oven,
and pulled away with a mark,
as though the oven had bitten her with its white-hot mouth.
She considered the burn momentarily,
and before you could offer to doctor it,
to ease her pain with the kitchen first aid kit,
she was putting out her cigarette on her forearm
right next to the oven-bite.
You took this moment to wonder if she had intentionally burnt herself with the oven.
You never asked.
Those burns became scars,
and you ate the brownies,
and got your birthday sex,
and she got out of bed afterward and made herself some tea.
Her name reminds you of leaving,
of why winter and summer never meet.
She used to say the winter was her favorite time of year,
but she was always so sad when the weather turned cold,
you kind of doubted it.
You wonder where she is now.
Last week you saw an old friend, whom you met because of her.
He asked after you,
and you asked after her.
And this man smiled and said,
"She got married, but honestly, I kind of wonder if she's really happy."
You don't ask what he means,
or if she asks about you,
you just continue on your way,
after saying how nice it was to see him,
how you two should get together and catch up.
You pull down your sleeves again,
hiding what she taught you best,
and continue on your way,
and you think of how
she used to bake.
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