"July wishes"

Spend July making wishes, on all the brightest stars and every sip of beer you pretend not to see your father drink. Wish on the times you fall asleep at sunrise and the sound of your grandmother moving down the hallway in the middle of the night. Wish on other people's birthday candles and don't, for an instant, feel like you're trespassing.

Wonder if it's the volume or intensity or persistence of wishes that makes them come true. Wonder if it works just to hope for happiness when the clock turns to 11:11 or if you have to, like a girl with a dancer's body and a faked lisp once told you, kiss the clock once the minute is over. Wonder why that would make things different, as if you're trading a granted wish for an embrace, and start to feel a little sordid. Wonder if clocks long to be kissed as much as you do.

Think all this because of a phone conversation at three am where you laid on the front porch and got jealous, because he could see stars and all your sky had was clouds, bright with light pollution. Don't get jealous of him but of the people who lay next to each other every night and take it for granted. Start wondering when he says, over and over, "I see a shooting star," and it surprises you that he wishes on each one. Assume that you know what he's hoping for. Realize that you don't.

Steal one of your grandfather's blue Pall Malls and smoke your first cigarette in the backyard at midnight. Lay under the porch light and exhale smoke. Watch it curl upward, fleeting in the glow. Savor the burn in your throat and don't let how good it feels scare you. Know that it should scare you. Light another off the dying end of the first and feel reckless as you just let it burn. Stub it out in the ashtray and carry the butt inside once it stops smoking, into the tiny bathroom where you put on your grandmother's lipstick, because you want to leave a red print on the cigarette's white paper.

Look at yourself in the mirror: your mouth a slash of crimson, cheekbones stark since you cut off all the hair that used to hide them. Two fingers holding a half-gone cigarette to your lips, pink polish on the nails, chipped and faded. A red print on the white paper.

Think that if you met yourself on the street, you'd want to be that woman, the woman who's finally beautiful enough on the outside to afford fucking up her insides without being hated for it. Think that you look like a magazine ad, in this moment, except for your eyes which don't look at people but stare past them instead. Realize that you just thought of yourself as a woman and not a teenage girl and sit on the floor because you get dizzy all of a sudden. Convince yourself that it's the nicotine hitting your brain and do not, under any circumstances, think about the future.

Wonder why only stupid, dangerous things can make you feel like a grownup. Consider how you're still playing dress-up, like the five-year-old you who could play for hours in her mother's walk-in closet. You've moved on from sensible heels to cigarettes, but you get the same feeling at the sight of your reflection, as if you can escape the future as easily as taking off a dress.

Lose the ability to sleep at night without waking up from a rest that's dreamless and stale. Sleep through the afternoons instead, so the feeling of midday sunshine falling through the window becomes something surprising and cherished. Answer the phone when he calls you in the early morning and laugh at how unnatural it feels, to talk to him when the world is awake and could overhear. Fall asleep for tiny stretches, ten minutes here and a half-hour there. Dream every time, but only dream about him once.

Feel like you're stuck between two lives, like the pause button was pressed and never let go. Worry about August, because it's an in-between month, when the light starts to die.

Learn to make wishes on things that will still be there even after you're gone. Write a future on his fingertips, the small of his back, the palms of his hands. Trust him not to read it. Let it be washed away and know that what really happens always makes a better story. Understand that wishes are there to make people feel better- they are not permanent, they are not a roadmap. Make your way, instead, by the watery blue of your grandmother's eyes, by the sight of a smile breaking like a wave across his face, by daylight coming through the curtains like an old, long-absent friend.