when i was in elementary school my father would sometimes come into my room at night. he would sit on the side of my bed and wake me up. he would tell me he had to go away for a little while. this happened many times. he and my mother didn’t get along at all. my mother would ask him to leave. i didn’t want him to leave. i would have much preferred to have been around him. my father was very nice to me. he was much gentler than my mother, who didn’t really seem to like me at all. but he would come to me and tell me he had to go. i remember one night he gave me his black robe. he wrapped it around me. it smelled just like him. i cried so hard. i begged him not to go. i remember standing by the window and watching him drive off into total darkness. i don’t know where he went. i never knew when i was going to see him again.

my older brother and sister lived in christiansburg. they went to high school there. they only lived with us half the year. when they left i would be so miserable. i was young. i would plead with them not to go but they had to go. i remember once i was standing in the driveway at night and they were putting their things in my dad’s truck. my sister tara, who was always so nice to me, came over and gave me one of her t-shirts. she told me to wear it every day until i saw her again. it smelled just like her. when the smell started to fade i stopped wearing it because i still wanted it to smell like my sister. i still remember what that was like. it was very comforting to me. i don’t know if i ever told her how much that meant to me. the last time i saw her i was 17 and my father and i had to carry her in through the basement and lay her down on the couch. she was very sad and out of control. i remember she had leaves in her hair. she asked me if she could sleep in my bed with me because she was so scared and lonely. i told her she could. in the morning i got up to go to school. it was still dark out. she asked me if i still loved her and i told her i did. i hugged her and left. i have no idea if she is alive anymore.

during my final days in baltimore i lived alone. my apartment was sound proof. i couldn’t even hear people moving around above and below me. i used to get so lonely. i would invite M over and i would make her dinner and we would watch movies. i was happy when she came over because she was so nice to be around. it killed me when she left. i remember one night in the summer when it was bad between us, she still came over anyway. she said she still loved me. we watched a movie in the dark. virgil was on her lap and dante was on mine. i remember it was raining. she said she had to go. i begged her not to go. i was so alone. she had to go. i understand why she had to go. i didn’t then. i wanted her to stay with me. i couldn’t take people going away anymore. when i was packing up my apartment to move to austin i found a little white pillow M had told me she’d had since she was baby. i put it in a box and took it with me. i kept it so i could give it back to her one day. it stayed in my closet in austin and i never looked at it. two years later when i was packing up my room in austin to move to california i found it again. i’d held onto it all that time. it still smelled just like her. i couldn’t look at it anymore. i knew she’d never be back for it so i threw it away.