you look at me, & i can't tell if your eyes
are concerned or irritated. "what's
wrong?" you ask. i pause.

i almost say:

everything.

almost say:

i don't want to be
alone tonight. alone means
darkness pressing in on all sides,
pushing me into fetal position, shrinking
small & small & smaller, clawing my
own sorry eyes out.

alone means loneliness digging
deep into my spine, clutching tight to my
thoughts & wrapping bruises around my throat,
a twisted chokehold of despair i never quite
manage to escape.

but i can't say these things
to you, with all the burdens you already bear.
so i push a smile to the corners of my lips,
crinkle my eyes. "i'm just
really tired," i tell you instead. you squint.
i know you don't believe me. but
accept it anyway, urging me to hurry because

it's cold outside, & we have to go.