Pen Pals

By Laura Dockrill

This piece is the first in the second round of 'Crossing Borders' commissions.

I saw the look you gave my mother,
I'll take care of her, you said.
You painted my fingertips, turned
a sofa to a stage, a broom to a boyfriend,
lemonade into poison.
You were my first friend.
I'm going to teach you how to fly
and I let you stamp my passport with a love heart
and then watched you eat the pages up. Yum. Yum.
We wrote letters. Crossed borders,
floating in the lucidity between grey matter
and art as
our hands became cartoons
you were the theatre inside my skull
worming into my little sister's ear
to become insect small
to grow glass palaces from plastic bottles.
We were play dough back then
and I would let you take my hand in school
and sneak me out of class,
swallowing down corridors
they don't like you here I whispered I'm worried you're going to have to leave

You laughed wildly. Hands on your hips. And so we grew up.

I trusted you with my
big secrets but some things
I kept from you
in case you used them against me in a deadly way,
slipped them out in a strange masked form of disguise
as you were cocky now. And knew me too well. I was the dead fish you'd bring
to a friend's house for dinner.
One marble eye, gazing, as you threw me under a bus.
How can you hide something from somebody who thought of the hiding place?

You DON'T have to come EVERYWHERE with me! I SCREAM
And I had to face that not all things were good, alone,
that people you love fall out of love and
you'd be gone.

The River Thames became the
Underworld, bank letters became labyrinths, fallen leaves now
barking dogs.

Tears roll.
I am a silent bottle of wine, you corkscrew my head out to sample my brains.

How do you save me and kill me at the same time? I ask you.

Because I know you better than anybody. I can make you feel as pure and as light and as free as the dream of a shooting star.


I can make you feel like an old pair of unbranded Size 13 tennis trainers in a charity shop.

Cheers. Cheers. But hold on, I pause, I grew you,

And that's the problem! You shout; I AM WRITING THIS NOW YOU IDIOT. NOT YOU, ME.

Alright. Calm down.  We'd not speak for a bit. Fall out.

You'd sit with your back to me
and I decided then that you were prettier than me.
Cooler than me.
and I didn't need to wear a bra.

This is for life... you warn. I have some rather nice plans on turning you mad when you're old, I might make you think the walls are talking and convince you that you're already dead before you've actually even died
who knows what I'll do. I'm still thinking about it, I haven't even really made my mind up yet.

'You have to do normal stuff too, Laura, you can't just spend your whole life underwater with cannibals. You need some separation from this lifelong friend of yours.
Why don't you see less of each other, perhaps become Pen Pals instead?'

S     P     A     C     E.

Write everyday, won't you? You sob.
Of course I will. I only want to speak in your language.
You are my only real species to be honest.
Because you were my first friend and
you'll be my last, but outlive me please,
with the places we went, the letters we wrote.