Dance. Nicole was always telling me
what to do,
orchestrating something wild
that she called fun.
If I didn’t do it,
she’d badger me, threaten me,
go into mini rages.
You’d better or else. You’d better
or I’ll tell your dad what you did.
Half the time I couldn’t even remember
what I did.
She was persuasive and conniving,
and beautiful in all the ways I thought
I liked to look at blood.
Nicole would tell my dad. How sadistic
I was at age five asking to see
the cut my cousin got off the edge
of a rusty bike with no seat.
The family would hold me
under a microscope like a disease, disgust
written all over their faces
as if they didn’t want to see the blood too.
At age six I’d seen a whole movie called,
Kids, about how you get AIDS.
Up in her room with the door locked,
Nicole told me
if I ever even thought about having sex I’d die.
I never told my dad.
Truth or dare.
Nicole demanded. I stopped taking dares
she wanted me to dance naked
in front of her
upstairs window with the lights on
while a car drove by.
I had to do it—
or I’d be banned from her room forever.
I didn’t want that
because then I’d be stuck downstairs listening
to the grown-ups play poker,
surrounded by clouds of cigar smoke,
smelling of whiskey while Nicole taunted me,
calling me names
in passing, like a ghost whispering on the stairs
or from behind a curtain.
I was stuck for days listening
to my dad’s wife talk
mad shit about my mom.
They’d see me
in the shadows and pretend
I wasn’t there, that I couldn’t hear.
I wanted to go home.
Nicole would say, it’s fun. Dance.
Previously published in Red Fez