100 meter dash and i'm running again, like always. so hard my side hurts. and i can't see you because you're so far behind. but somehow i have to keep running. how can i begin to explain to you?

there is something inside of me, something i am afraid to unleash onto this world. it's this little person that lives within me and has for awhile now. she's sitting in front of you right now, knees crossed, lips stained with chocolate because no one's seen her for a long time. and whenever i feel her trying to escape (up through my lungs and into my throat) i can't hold her in and suddenly those same chocolate stains and skinned knees are filling my mouth, bitter against my tongue. i cannot swallow her or suppress her as she is a part of me, arms gripping the flesh inside my mouth. so i turn and run the other way, hoping that i haven't left any parts of her behind.

*

when i was little the big people used to talk to me, lean down and stroke my red-blonde curls with their thick, rough fingers and i would shake my head and nod. refuse to speak if addressed specifically. and when they would leave me alone, sitting small and perched on the church kitchen counter in rolled up jeans with my legs swinging below me, i would overhear bits of their conversations; yell across the room that children don't like peas (like broccoli even less) the minister's wife is fat and there's only one way to drink coffee - lots of sugar. they would blink in my general direction, scowl at the sudden outburst and resume their conversations, black coffee mugs in hand.

i first met andrew on one such sunday afternoon. he sat beside me on the counter and we kept a running commentary on a tiny piece of paper. he would pass it to me covertly: over the heel of my palm, up through the sleeve of my shirt. and i would giggle at the mutiny of it all. never pictured myself as the rebel-without-a-cause kind of girl. and when he would touch my curls, his fingers were soft, weaving through my hair like silk. but we hardly ever spoke without red ink and blue lines. so i couldn't let her out there because she's never learned to read. it was an easy escape, though they found the coffee prints the next day.

*

michael was my boy next-door, my cape cod fantasy come to life. and i was the girl with straight brown hair who climbed through his window (or maybe he climbed through mine) and helped him paint his room red, the colour of fire. the girl who was caught holding that very same paint brush to her mouth, chest, hips... paint stains on both our jeans. he was completely covered when i ran, even though she tried her best to reveal herself to him; pushing with straggly arms to part my mouth, let tiny red-blonde curls escape from my lips.

*

and then there was that boy, the one i left sitting on a dock in a small town somewhere between here and a forest in southern ontario. the one i, with red hair, told them i loved but never told him to his face because docks don't keep secrets for long. you always find them years later, scratched in childish handwriting with the edge of a pocket knife; a tiny heart around two conjoining letters (C+J 4 EVER). and i couldn't let her out there. not near the water. no one's taught her how to swim.

*

now you. who's to say what it will be? no coffee, ink stains, windows or water. so far so good. maybe i can even dye my hair. but i'll probably still be running soon enough. i'm always running, trying to keep her down.

i dare you to try and keep me down.