I feel a little strange about posting this poem.
I’m not embarrassed. Honestly, I’m having a great time sharing all of these dorky college poems with you.
Still, I feel a little strange about posting this poem, because this one was once very important to me.
I wrote it sophomore year, which I’ve come to realize was a time when everything was important. I was 20 years-old — the oldest I’d ever been. I was hundreds of miles away from mom and dad. I was in charge of making my own meals and doing my own laundry. I had my own room. I was taking feminist studies classes and reading The Bell Jar in my spare time. I was obsessed with Bob Dylan and Shane MacGowan and I felt so cool when one of my professor’s said, “Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Laurie Anderson.” I loved my roommates and my apartment and my school.
In January, I started seeing a boy I’d been friends with for a few months. By “seeing” I mean sneaking around with, and by “boy” I mean, ya know, a fellow consenting young adult. We secretly kissed one night after a party, and instead of just leaving it at that, we had to repeat our mistake and make things complicated.
We liked each other and I knew that and he knew that, but for some reason we never really got it right. One of us was always afraid of something and the other was always worried about something else. One day we’d say, “Let’s just be friends,” and then after two days of being the kind of friends who stay up all night talking, one of us would say, “I can’t just be friends.” We’d start over.
It was frustrating and painful and yeah, frickin’ exciting. It always hurt a little bit after one of our “we need to stop this” discussions, but we’d always change our minds, which always meant a few more days of sneaky bliss.
We finally decided to commit, and things immediately soured. I don’t know whose fault it was. Maybe if I had just let him ignore me instead of barging into his apartment asking, “Where the fuck have you been for five days?” things would have been better. Maybe if he had actually told me what it was that made him want to run away things would have been better. Maybe it’s because we were both 20 years-old?
I tried to end it a few times, and both times I was talked out of it. It was confusing. It was frustrating and painful and I hated every second of it.
Things came to an end over the summer when we both had to go back to our respective suburban homes. He broke up with me. When he called me that day, I knew exactly what was going to happen — it had been ages since we last spoke. He said, “I have to break up with you,” and I said, “Haven’t we been broken up for weeks?” I was sad, but I wasn’t hurt — I had gotten all the “hurt” out of my system back in Santa Cruz. Furthermore, I wasn’t about to let him think I was surprised to hear that we were through. Looking back, I shouldn’t even have been that nice. I should have just blurted out a big, loud, “DUH.”
I’m a huge fan of monogamy and commitment and intimacy and all that, but, I have to say, the best part of this relationship was the “sneaky bliss.” It probably shouldn’t have gone beyond that. Maybe we’d still be friends and I wouldn’t be posting a poem I wrote about him.
I wrote this one night after visiting him in his apartment. A few weeks later, I decided to submit it to a poetry contest that was being held by The Beat Museum in San Francisco. I didn’t think that I was going to win, nor did I really care. The only reason I mailed the poem off to the city was because it seemed like a fun little creative outlet. Despite my lighthearted feelings, I still decided not to tell anyone. This was just for me.
A month later I called my mom one Sunday morning to ask her something — I really don’t remember what. My older brother answered the phone.
“Hey. I just read your poem.”
“The one about the diabetic boy.”
Yes. My mother, being a Beat Museum enthusiast, had gone to their website that morning just for kicks. Across the screen, she saw the names of the winners of that month’s poetry contest. Honorable Mention went to Stephanie from Santa Cruz, California, for her poem “Sweet Love.”
Stephanie Callas Santa Cruz, California
I know this guy who’s diabetic
Whenever he’s at my apartment
he has to go home every couple of hours
to check his blood sugar levels
I miss him during those few minutes
and I’m always overjoyed when he comes back
sipping his Capri Sun.
Once a long time ago at his apartment
he checked his blood sugar
right there in his room
and when the results were in
he shot insulin into his hip
I asked him if he needed a Capri Sun
“No sugar this time. Just insulin.”
He called me one night while I was
trying to write an essay
for some silly class
that I didn’t really care about.
My priorities don’t involve textbooks
“I need you to come over,” he said
“I had a seizure today at 4am.”
I was over an hour later
with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s
Double Chocolate Fudge Brownie
“Cause this time you where low, right?”
He grabbed my hand and said,
“Do ya ever have days when you
only wanna see specific people?”
Curled up on his bed
with the ice-cream close at hand
we watched the first half of a movie
and then we kissed for nearly two hours
Then I went home at 2am and stared at my
blank computer screen and told myself,
“I could love this guy.”