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Seventeen

February 24, 2010

She looks twenty three. I would sell her cigarettes without asking for ID. Beer, too. But she tells me she goes to parties and leaves early, without drinking, before the rest get drunk. Last year’s sixteen year old has faded into seventeen going on twenty three with the responsibility of a thirty five year old. She carries these ages steadily, weaves them together and wears them as one cloak. But I want to hold her the same way I would a tired two year old — gather her in my lap and hold her until she feels safe enough to forget… to forget it all. My eyes follow the blunt line of her side-swept bangs; I can tell she has cut her own hair again. It states “edgy,” with authority. An authority she owns, an authority she has earned.

I wonder if my seventeen year old self would have been friends with her. How would I have loved her then? Could I have loved her? Certainly not with this same motherly instinct that overwhelms every expression I have towards her now. An instinct that doesn’t assert itself in any other moment of my life and that I try to bury when I am with her. She does not need another mother. Not now, at seventeen.

If we had been seventeen together, would we have saved each other? Held on for dear life against the world’s undertow? The undertow of our worlds. Would we have shared a world? And pulled each other out? Or pulled each other down, but with hands clamped together tightly? Would it have been easier than walking out alone?

I could have used some of her “edge” at seventeen. Hell, I could use some of her edge now, at twenty six. But I get now what I would not have gotten then – she has earned every sense of authority she has. I am so damn proud of her. So proud of her that I can honestly say – it would have been my loss entirely if we had not been friends at seventeen.

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