Heather handed me a poem she wrote.

Here, she said, Read this.

We were sitting on the thrifted couch in her apartment off campus. It was the end of the semester and the windows were wide open but useless against the Virginia summer night.

I looked at the 4 or 5 stanzas. It was free verse. Something about nature and darkness. Something about loneliness and longing. I handed it back to her.

Cool, I said. That’s awesome.

Heather looked at me. No, she said, handing the poem back to me. Read this.

She was a year ahead of me. We’d been sitting next to each other on the first day of what turned out to be the world’s most difficult 200-level British Literature class, and quickly became each other’s life raft. We were supposed to be studying for the final but had somehow ended up drinking instead.

I looked at the poem again. Something about cicadas. Something about the full moon. Something about sex and the long summer night.

Heather had a roommate who was majoring in modern dance. The last time I’d come over we’d bonded over her My So Called Life poster, but tonight she was out with her boyfriend, a white guy with dreads and a dog named Kenya or Nairobi or something. It was getting late and it was going to be a long walk back to campus.

I handed the poem back to Heather. It’s really cool, I said. Poetry’s not my thing and I don’t know if I understand it, but I like it. It’s great.

Heather stared at me again, longer this time. No, she said, handing the poem back to me. Read this.