symptoms of adaptation


we tested each other by testing our own limits.
some of us knew how to live on our own, but no one knew
how to be alone
there was nothing to belong to besides each other.

but it was easy to feel like I didn’t belong.
I spent a lot of time observing.
it’s something I did a lot
when I was little;
I’d watch people
and try to figure them out
before I tried to figure in to their dynamic.

sometimes I felt invisible, watching
which can feel lonely, but can also be comforting.
there can be peace in isolation.
it was easy to look past things that are now troubling
these symptoms of adaptation.


the hallway is littered
with the cheapest cans of beer we can find
at the Monoprix
smoke from joints
and hand rolled cigarettes
mingle, interchangeable
it is december.
we have not yet learned of heavier vices.

sitting in the room with the window over the street
milky gray smoke, grime
clouds over my eyes

you stand, silhouetted by the light coming through
the open window
freezing air streams into the room
halo of smoke above your golden head
cigarette in your hand held
practiced insouciance


I’ve had a hard time lately
figuring out what’s real
and what’s not.
Cynthia says it’s normal
to disappear like this when you’re someone new
I mean somewhere new
she says I have to dig my heels in
she says I have to wake up
but I prefer to sleepwalk
it feels easier to disappear here
than to live in two places at once.


like an opium den, Lane comments
when she visits me a few weeks later
after we have left his room.
no one talked, she says
is it always like that?
they’re not unfriendly
they’re just high
sorry about that.
next time we’ll go out
we’ll do something else

the weekend after she leaves
we crowd together in the small apartment
getting ready to leave

I hold your hand in the cab ride over
you say it feels like this
when you start to come up
it feels scary
like the end of the world or something
my own mind makes me think that sometimes
all by itself
you ask me if I want to try
but I say not me
I’m too afraid of coming down

we watched each other leave our former selves
in the coat check at
the Palais de Tokyo.
was that the one where he got kicked out
for trying to punch the bouncer?
that wasn’t me, he told us
I would remember that.

but there is a lot that goes unremembered


our thoughts had not yet turned from winter.
no one saw the signs, no one said enough, or stop, or even slow down.
I watched.
I didn’t talk.
how can you rationalize worrying about someone
that you have no business worrying about?
we wouldn’t find out until later what had almost happened so many times.

the last night before we all leave
I dream again of you
on the roof
like we used to do
you are sitting on the edge
and I won’t let you go
you aren’t afraid of falling
and I’m too afraid
of coming down

By Annie LeFevre