They follow me.

Corner of my eye,
Right behind my back.

They’re always there.
Even when I’m alone,
I’m not really.

But I am.
Because they’re not real.
He’s not real.
Not here anyways.

But he’s always here.
Lurking in my mind.
Waiting to strike.

He pulls me into the past.
Back through the razors that I still have scars from.
Back through the bright spots that kept me there.

I close my eyes, and I feel him cutting against me.
His eyes like molten metal.
His voice like a knife.
His words like blades.
His hands like razors.

He’s angry at me again.
We’re standing outside, arguing.
He growls my name, and I shrink.

Now we’re sitting by the creek.
We’re being sarcastic with each other.
Without realizing it, I cross a line.
Everything blurs. I can’t breathe. My stomach hurts.
My vision clears, and he’s still there.
As though nothing happened.
So I act that way too.

Now we’re in the school hallway.
He’s holding my hand.
There’s some other friends with us.
One of them says something that upsets him.
My back hurts. I’m against a wall.
I can’t remember being thrown,
But there’s no other way I’d be on the ground against the wall so fast.
Two of our friends run to me. Make sure I’m okay.
One of them yells at him. He ignores her.

I blink, and I’m back in the present.
He’s nowhere near here. I’m safe.
But I can still hear him growl my name.
I can still see the blur before my vision cleared.
I can still feel the pain in my back as I lay against the wall.

Not every ghost is a razor.
Sometimes he pulls me into the bright spots.

Now we’re in my room, watching a movie.
It’s at a love song, and we’re singing along as we look at each other.
He takes my hand, and I bury my face in his chest.
We hear a snap from under my mattress.
We both laugh, and I jokingly grumble at him for cracking my bed frame.

Now we’re sitting by the tree just past the playground.
I’m in his lap, watching flower petals drift by.
Our friends are sitting around us.
He moves me and gets up, only to pull a flower down from the tree and give it to me.
He struggles to make it stay in my hair after I settle back into his lap.

Now we’re at the park, sitting on a log.
It’s getting dark, but that makes the trees more beautiful.
His cousin is there too,
but he keeps scaring him away so we can be alone.
We just sat there, enjoying each other’s company.

I shake my head and come back,
Fighting the tears in my eyes
And the pit in my chest.

His ghosts follow me everywhere.
Cutting into me with his razors.
Comforting me with his bright spots.
Haunting me with our past.
Tainting the present.
Ruining my future.

Phoenix is a 20 year old nonbinary writer and student at Lane. They experienced an incredibly physically and emotionally abusive relationship at 14, which ended up being a catalyst for their previously undiagnosed mental illnesses. They’ve since gone to therapy and come very far from who they were at the time, having moved cities and made a lot of progress on themself in and out of therapy.

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