Bottle-Necked

You boarded the bus

it was crowded

with people standing around

the doors and exits

bottle-necked

 

You were smartly dressed

with your cuffs rolled up to your elbows

clinging awkwardly

to those handles

that are too high for most people

 

You were pregnant

not enough to leave stretch marks

or to swell your ankles

but enough to show

so that people would come up to you

and touch your tummy

without your consent

 

But as I watched you

from my seat

I noticed

the scars along your arm

white, raised

the width of a razor

 

over and over and over

 

On both arms

it’s clear

you found room

when there was none

 

And I wanted to apologise

and say that I’d been through the same

but how could I do that

without reminding you

to look down

to see them, all over again?

 

How do I say

that I did that too

that I know what it’s like

without reminding us both

of the pain?

 

How do I say

it’s alright

without you trying to explain

how old you were

and where you were

when you did it

for the first time

 

How can I tell you

that it’s not your fault

and that you only needed help

without implying that first

you were sick

and didn’t know any better

 

How can I tell you

that I love you

and I think you’re valuable

and you’ll make a great parent

when I don’t even know your name

 

 

The bus pulled up, slowing like an exhale

it’s my stop

and I still haven’t formed any of my thoughts into words

so I said excuse me

and I left

and stepped out onto the pavement

 

and then I realised

in that moment

that I was so caught up

in my own compassion

that I forgot to offer you

my seat

 

 

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