Have I always been this way?

Each section is based on the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the day from January, 2023.

I. wardour street, adj. and n.

Back in ninth grade,
after our English class read Romeo & Juliet,
Dom kept speaking
in fake medieval diction.

She’d spend lunch telling me about
the latest episode of Riverdale 
with the occasional ‘ye’ and ’t’was,’
a smattering of ‘-eth’ suffixes.

II. Ideogenous, adj.

Dom used to write stories all the time.
During class, her laptop
would be open for ‘note-taking,’
but she would be deep into
her latest Reylo fanfiction.

III. collabo, v.

The first time Dom spoke to me,
she asked me to help with a piece she wanted to play
for the solo and ensemble contest.

She was taking a mute out of her trumpet;
I was putting the marimba part of “So What” in my folder.
The hollow sound of her emptying her spit valve

filled the time it took me to understand.
I never thought I was that good or noticeable.
I accepted the opportunity.

IV. amigurumi, n.

I have a squid on my desk,
small, purple, a tiny grin,
that Dom knit me
before she moved away.

I think about messaging her
every time I see it,
but get too afraid
to type anything.

V. groceteria, n.

The morning of the solo and ensemble contest,
Dom said we needed to stop at the Haggen
by my apartment complex to get
AriZona Arnold Palmers for good luck.

She walked across the store
like her life depended on it.
The cashier complimented our suits.
We chugged them in the high school parking lot.

VI. misogamous, adj.

Dom texted me
during winter break our sophomore year
upset her mom got engaged to her boyfriend.

She didn’t understand
how her mom could happily participate
in such patriarchal traditions.

VII. y’alls, pron.

When the judge announced
our performance of “Take Five”
won the small ensemble category,
the audience erupted.

VIII. roscidating, adj.

I sit at my computer,
doomscrolling,
alone.

Dom’s squid stares at me.
I need to talk to someone,
but what would I even say?

IX. red queen, n.

She always wanted to get better
at whatever she was fixated on.
She encouraged me to do the same.

She even showed me her earlier fanfiction, which was
so terrible she swore to never share it.
But she trusted me.

X. cabinet able, adj.

I used to eat lunch in the library.
Well, I’d sit in the library during lunch.
But Dom invited me to sit with her and her friends
after we started practicing for the contest.

It was like starting a series
halfway through the third season,
piecing together names and plots
everyone else already knows.

XI. ajangle, adj. and adv.

I remember the sound distinctly:
the chime my phone made
when Dom texted me 
to tell me her stepdad got relocated;
they’d have to move during spring break.

I remember the sound distinctly:
the chime my phone made
when I learned my best friend
was leaving in the middle
of our senior year.

My phone has been on silent since.

XII. coachy, adj.

Junior year, when my grandpa got sick,
Dom drove me from school to the hospital.
She refused my offer for gas money,
said it’s what friends do.

XIII. blankety, adj.

I don’t have another way to describe it.
When I was around her, I felt safe.

She understood me
in a way most people don’t.

XIV. galdem, n.

For me, it was hard feeling part of the group.
I always felt outside, apart.

When Dom invited me to her lunch table,
she made sure I was part of the conversation.

It’s because of her I was able to make the friends
I had, the memories I have. She made it so easy.

XV. satoshi, n.

Is this what distance does?
Does the past live behind rose-tinted glass?
Does she remember me this way:
emphases on my positives, whatever they are?

Or, does she remember how much she did for me,
how little I could return?
Does her mind filter me through the windows
of an abandoned home?

XVI. cyberslacking, n.

I don’t even know what I’m afraid of.
Sometimes, when a professor’s lecture is slow, 
I search Dom’s name on Instagram
to see what she’s been up to.

I don’t follow her, too afraid
of her seeing the notification
with my name, remembering how
I disappeared, then blocking me.

XVII. mindstyle, n.

Have I always been this way?
Has it always been the case that
the walls around me were
constructed by me?

Am I to blame for my own isolation?
How couldn’t I see it before?
Why can’t I
change it?

XVIII. barnstorm, v.

In the spring of freshman year,
our jazz band did several performances
at nearby memory care places.

Dom was so excited to be a traveling bard,
she memorized several sonnets and monologues
by Shakespeare to recite between songs.

XIX. bumble broth, n.

The week after she moved,
she texted me, asking how I’d been,
apologizing for not reaching out earlier
overwhelmed with travel and unpacking.

Words flooded me. Where
would I even start?
I couldn’t even find the words
for what I was feeling.

XX. cruyff turn, n.

For a while, I tried diversion:
ask about her day,
ask about her mom,
ask about Euphoria.

Much easier to read and listen to her
than find words of my own.

XXI. booze can, n.

I remember the first time
I felt the fractures grow.

It was a month after she moved. My dads
were at a school counselor conference.

I raided the liquor cabinet in hopes
it would loosen my lips, find my words.

The words that came were hurt,
full of confrontation, resentment.

XXII. dumbsizing, n.

She didn’t text me for several days.
I didn’t blame her.
It was never the same afterward.

Time between messages grew 
like moss
after a rainstorm.

XXIII. kitbash, v.

The way she’d play trumpet,
write her stories—
she’d draw connections
between unlike things, create
something I’d never seen before.

XXIV. durex, n.

We were inseparable once.
Each afternoon at one of our homes,
homework and horror movies,
walks through the parks

at our neighborhoods’ edges.
We’d share AirPods and secrets
before school, at lunch, at games
our boyfriends made us attend.

XXV. ramfeezled, adj.

I’m standing at the end
of the bread aisle staring
at the everything bagels,
her favorite breakfast.

I miss her so much.
What’s the worst that can happen?
I already have nothing.
I already am nothing.

XXVI. skyrgalliard, n.

There’s a beehive in my chest.
Words fill the windshield
on my way home.
I activate the wipers
to sift through them.

XXVII. shockle, n.

We did a morning hike at Franklin Falls
the last day of winter break senior year.

We packed two thermoses of hot chocolate,
drank them at the base of the frozen waterfall.

We talked about our families, the future,
decisions we would have to make.

XXVIII. chup, int. and adj.

My natural state is silent.
It’s easy to listen to other people talk.

It’s much more difficult to say something,
to be open and vulnerable to someone else.

XXIX. mopery, n.

On her last day, I couldn’t
drive home from school.

I sat in the parking lot
on the hood of my car.

She said she had to go,
had to finish packing.

I watched her drive away,
then sat and cried

until security came
to shoo me away.

XXX. send-forth, n.

I helped organize a party
to tell Dom goodbye.

We marathoned Star Wars movies,
ate bagels, drank Arnold Palmers.

It was the last time we were in the same room,
the last time we laughed together.

XXXI. navel-gazer, n.

Stare at the ceiling for an hour,
dig my phone out of my bag,

take a deep breath, 
open Instagram, find her profile,

hit follow, open a message,
type the first words that come to me,

hit send, enable sound,
throw my phone across the living room.

It dings.

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