The first time I saw a needle, it was
placed innocently on a nightstand as if it
was a tube of chapstick. I had no right to
see it in the bedroom of a friend’s older
brother—the one who shoved me to sit
two-deep on the padded seat, then called me
a bitch when I protested. I willed him to look
at me, but his eyes steadied on the river ahead.
I craned my neck to listen to Blue Oyster Cult
tracks filtering through his headphones. Our vice
principal made him apologize, but I could tell he
wasn’t sorry. Even so, his eyes when he spoke
were expectant. Lashed thickly and wide. He
smelled the same way he did on the bus: weed
and spearmint gum and clean and I wonder if this
is how he looked when he shot up. Or maybe
his eyes went moony and flat? Perhaps they were
half-closed as he spaced out to old-school metal.
Even though I willed it a thousand times I can’t
bear to think of those eyes in death. That earthy
faceted green was meant to shine like two ponds
spared from ripples, holy in the Appalachian sun.
Rita Mookerjee is an Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Worcester State University. In 2020, she was a Fulbright Research Fellow in Kingston, Jamaica. She is the author of False Offering, forthcoming from JackLeg Press (Fall 2023). Her poems can be found in CALYX, Copper Nickel, New Orleans Review, Poet Lore, and Vassar Review. She serves as an editor at Split Lip Magazine, Sundress Publications, and Honey Literary.