The Summer I Learned How to Make Things Pretty

2 summer i turned pretty

There’s a narrow hallway beside our house,

Where an unpainted wall of concrete blocks resides

When we were younger,

my sister and I would roam the streets—

Our hands tingling, in search of the prettiest flowers,

Standing on tiptoes, we would reach far and beyond the greenest shrubs;

“I must find the perfect flower!” 


When I was twelve,

I fell in love with a boy whose eyes are thunder—

Dark, elusive, yet impossibly bright

Making him laugh felt like plucking a flower and sticking it to the vulnerable parts of the wall,

Believing it would be happier this way.

If only I could put flowers in the broken parts of his body,

Perhaps he would be happy…maybe then, he would love me.


At fifteen, my heart found itself another set of melancholic eyes—

He’s the tune the ocean sings right after a huge tidal wave;

Slipping from the violence yet failing to escape the crash

The first time we held hands, I was reminded of the wall’s roughness,

It’s as if he’s telling me to piece him like a beautiful puzzle,

Oblivious of the scars on my fingers;

It’s okay as long as the wall’s pretty, it’s okay as long as he’s happy.


Days after our first hunt,

My sister and I found the sad remains of a once, lovely, flower wall

Eyes wild with worry, we hurriedly gathered flowers all over the street.

The year of my eighteenth birthday, my heart realized it could give off warmth.

Arms wide open, it surrendered itself to whoever needs it;

Just like I used to pull flowers without remorse,

I allowed everyone to have a piece of my heart.


Perhaps our mother should have stopped us,

Silly little girls trying to make a soulless wall lovely;

Turning a blind eye to the dead petals on the ground.

Perhaps our grandfather should have stopped us,

Reminded us that happiness is impermanent and soon enough, the shrub would stop growing flowers—

Somebody should have stopped us! 

No one should sacrifice their own happiness to the point of running dry.


The only thing that this game has taught me is there is not enough warmth for someone already broken;

I am not someone who should always be emptying herself to make room for other people’s pain,

I am not someone who should disturb the growth of flowers even if it means a moment of comfort.

The summer I learned how to make things pretty,

I should have apologized to the flowers I separated from their homes,

I should have come back to the pitiful shrubs and repaid them with water,

Learning the importance of loving myself before anyone else.


If only my sister and I saw how unhappy the wall looked like beneath the flimsy flowers,

We would have stopped falling in love with people we think we need to fix,

We would have learned how to stir away from boys with sad, pleading eyes, who would use our love like a disposable camera.

If only I recognized the shrubs as mirrors of myself,

Saw how exhausting it is to provide warmth for someone with an endless need,

I would have stopped my heart from running and asked it to rest,

“It’s okay, you’re the one who should come first.”