Comic-Con LA – Get Your Nerd On!

This was my second year attending Comic-Con LA (thank you for the Press Passes!), so I kinda had an idea of what to expect this time around. But what I didn’t expect was for the crowds to be even bigger than last year. Again, I attended only Saturday, as it seemed like the day with the most interesting panels.

One of the things that I simply love about Comic-Con is getting to see all the amazing and creative cosplays. I may have a soft spot for those who cosplay horror characters, so you may see more horror related characters than any others. In fact, one of the first booths I stopped by was that for Crypt TV. Last year, they had the LookSee creature, but this year they had one of my favourite creatures, The Birch! Not only did they have a Photo Op with the awesome Birch Forest but it was a way to promote the new series inspired by the original short. I even had a chance to attend The Birch panel and viewing of three episodes. If you’re into creepy woods, witchcraft, and a creature who gets rid of bullies, then I suggest you hope on over to Facebook Watch and check the series out. The panel followed with a short Q&A session with the creators, producers, and actors. Since my favourite character from the series The Birch was the seemingly complex bully, Thurston, after the panel was done I had a chance to chat with the actor, Dempsey Byrk who portrays him. He was really nice and I wish I hadn’t been popping cough drops like no tomorrow to keep a cough attack coming, so I wasn’t as talkative as I probably would’ve been in better spirits.

Afterwards, I attended the panel for Zombieland: Double Tap. The fans were promised a surprise and everyone thought that that meant that Billy Murray would show up. I knew that would be too good to be true, so had joked that most likely we’d be graced by Jesse Eisenberg presence instead. And well, let’s just say that Jesse Eisenberg did show up, but so did Zoey Deutch and (probably this was the surprise) Rosario Dawson. The panel was fun and some lucky peeps got to win tickets to the premiere that was happening that same night.

Once the panels I was interested in were done, I went comic book browsing. I was looking for some vintage horror comics but like always, most of the ones that were awesome were way too expensive. But I did find some vintage Archie Comics and even Joe Hill’s Tales from the Darkside. I was a little disappointed that there weren’t many new horror comic books there this year as there were last year. But all in all it was still a very fun experience. I love getting to check out all the vendors (there are so many talented artists!) and getting the chance to try out new food items (I tried this vegan ice cream from Nice Pops that was really good, and being lactose-intolerant it was a plus to have ice cream and not deal with a stomach ache afterwards). These pops are handcrafted and made from Cashew Milk. I got the chocolate one but they had other flavours too and they cost $5 a pop.

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With tired feet and famished, I was ready to call it a night once 6pm rolled around. But as always, Comic Con LA didn’t disappoint. It was a fun way to spend a Saturday in the company of creative people and getting the chance to check out new things in the world of horror and comics. If you’ve never been to Comic Con LA, I highly suggest that you book your ticket for next year (which it’ll be in late September) because I have a feeling that with each coming year, it’s only going to get bigger and better every time.

Photos by: David Hanger

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Book Review: Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

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Before, I was a million things. Now I’m only one. The Burned Girl.

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Order on Amazon

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Price: $16.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary

Ava Lee has lost everything there is to lose: Her parents. Her best friend. Her home. Even her face. She doesn’t need a mirror to know what she looks like–she can see her reflection in the eyes of everyone around her.

A year after the fire that destroyed her world, her aunt and uncle have decided she should go back to high school. Be “normal” again. Whatever that is. Ava knows better. There is no normal for someone like her. And forget making friends–no one wants to be seen with the Burned Girl, now or ever.

But when Ava meets a fellow survivor named Piper, she begins to feel like maybe she doesn’t have to face the nightmare alone. Sarcastic and blunt, Piper isn’t afraid to push Ava out of her comfort zone. Piper introduces Ava to Asad, a boy who loves theater just as much as she does, and slowly, Ava tries to create a life again. Yet Piper is fighting her own battle, and soon Ava must decide if she’s going to fade back into her scars . . . or let the people by her side help her fly.

Grade: A+

Review:

Ava’s story is both heartbreaking and uplifting. After becoming severely disfigured by a house fire, she not only has lost both of her parents and cousin but also her face. Or at least what her face used to be. For months, Ava fights for her life as she undergoes surgery after surgery but once she’s deemed healthy enough to leave the hospital, her aunt and uncle think it’s time to transition back into high school. But Ava doesn’t think she can survive high school with the face she has. That is until she meets Piper, a fellow survivor with a spitfire personality.

It’s rare when the characters in a book feel so real to me. But Ava and Piper were incredibly real, and the situations they found themselves in were also real for their circumstances. There were so many heartbreaking moments in the book, but it was also very hopeful. It wasn’t all about despair, as it easily could have been considering the topic. Instead, Ava realized that she could either wallow in misery her whole life and not live or decide to live again and find purpose in her new life with her new friends and support group.

I loved how each character was their own person, and that even the so-called “mean girls” of the school ultimately had a soul and reached a growth of their own by the end.

I suppose this was the sort of book that I wish it hadn’t ended because I still wanted to read more about Ava and Piper. It’s probably why after completing the book I took a break from the novel-reading and instead focused on reading poetry books instead. Because a part of me still wanted to hold on to Ava and her strong spirit. This book is a must-read for readers of any age, but especially teenagers so that they can learn how you can overcome the worst in life if you have the right people standing by you.

 

Short Q & A With The Author

Why did you select fire as the source of Ava’s disfigurement?

SCARS LIKE WINGS was actually inspired by Marius, a friend of mine, was burned and severely scarred by a house fire as a child in Romania. Now 20, Marius’ story has always inspired and intrigued me, not only because of the power of his tragedy but because he chooses every single day not to let it define him. He has had children run screaming from him. He has had bullies call him Freddy Krueger. I wanted to write a story that would go to these dark, lonely parts of tragedies like his, but also to the beautiful, hopeful parts. As Marius has told me, the only way he survived was because every time he wanted to give up, someone was there, helping him choose to live. I hope Ava’s story can show readers that we all have a choice after a life-changing event: We can choose to be alone, isolated and angry that our normal is gone, or we can let people in and find a new normal, together.

Reading Scars Like Wings it looks like you did a lot of research in burn victims when it comes to the healing process and medical work needed. Did you speak to professionals that help burn victims or did you solely rely on books about the topic?

Oh, definitely! As I wrote this book, I felt heavily the burden of presenting an accurate, respectful representation of the burn survivor community. I spent a lot of time speaking with survivors, reading their stories, talking to doctors about wound care and recovery, and generally immersing myself in the terrible/wonderful/inspirational/reality of being a burn survivor. Learning about the physical and emotional pain of burns was gut-wrenching at times, but I wanted to preset a story that went beyond stereotypes and pity to the reality of what it’s like to live with physical and emotional scars like Ava’s.

I know that Ava hates seeing herself as a survivor, but she is a very inspiring character. The reader can’t help but want to root for her the whole time. When did Ava’s story first come to you (as in inspiration)?

Well, like I mentioned, Marius originally sparked the idea for this story, but the character of Ava took shape slowly as I started researching and drafting. She has some qualities just like Marius, like her thumbs on her hands instead of fingers, and then pieces of other stories that survivors have shared with me. The more I thought about her and wrote about her, the more she became a fully-formed character with interests like Broadway musicals and a personality all her own. I’d love for readers to see Ava this way by the end of the book, as a smart, funny, talented teenager who just happens to also have scars.

As much as Ava is wonderful, Piper is a true scene-stealer. I feel like everyone needs a Piper in their life. Was Piper inspired by someone in particular?

Not really, but I knew from the beginning that Ava needed someone like Piper to draw her out of her shell and remind her that she has a lot of living and loving left to do. Piper’s loud, out-there attitude is a great counterbalance to Ava’s initial belief that her life is over after the fire. Like a lot of people, though, Piper’s bravado is hiding her own pain and struggles. And when she starts to push Ava away, too, we start to see how deep her pain runs. Both girls finally realize that they can have full, happy lives after their trauma, but they can’t ignore the pain, either.

So many YA novels lately are being made into movies or TV series, which actress would you like to see bring Ava to life?

Oh, wouldn’t that be amazing! If I’m being honest, I’d love to see the role of Ava go to a burn survivor. I think it would be so wonderful to see someone who has actually lived a similar storyline portray this recovery journey!

(Editor’s note: I LOVE Erin’s idea of a burn survivor being the one to portray Ava, although if I had to choose an actress, I think Joey King would tackle Ava’s journey well.)

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Review: Huda Beauty – Liquid Lipstick

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What It Is: Long-lasting liquid lipstick

Verdict: Ever since I’ve started using liquid lipsticks back in 2016, I haven’t been able to go back to a bullet tube anymore. There’s something about liquid lipsticks that just hits the spot for me. They’re smudge-free, don’t bleed, and incredibly long-lasting. What’s not to love? I know some people have issues with their lips drying out but that isn’t something that I’ve had to deal with. So, in the past three years, I’ve tried my fair share of liquid lipsticks. When Allure’s Beauty Box centered on Huda Beauty, I was intrigued. Mostly because I hadn’t tried any of their products up to that point. But I know how much people rave about Huda’s products and how life-changing some of them have been. For this particular Allure Beauty Box, Huda Kattan made a special liquid lipstick hue specifically for this occasion, creating an orange-red shade appropriately named Allure.

Now, I have no qualms over the quality of the liquid lipstick. It is worth all the hype her liquid lipsticks have garnered. It’s long-lasting and it doesn’t bleed. So those are two things that I look for when determining the success factor of a liquid lipstick. However, the shade Allure is terrible for anyone who’s as pale as I am. It isn’t a universal red as I thought it might be. Instead, it’s more of a bold bright orange than red. It’s not very flattering for pale skins, but feel it would be an excellent shade for those who have darker skin and want a red that isn’t on the classic side.

So the product was good but the shade wasn’t. Can’t win them all!

Price: $18

Where To Buy It: https://hudabeauty.com/

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Throwback Thursday: Travel Post – Sicily

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At the piazza in Taormina, Sicily

This month’s Throwback Thursday series is going to be a little different. Usually, in my past ones I revisited old movies or songs, but this time I thought that revisiting a location I hadn’t been to for a while was enough for me to write about it for this series.

I usually try to make it out to Sicily, Italy every two years, but this time I hadn’t been back since 2016. I was in much need of relaxation and to get away for a while, so I took four weeks off of work to head out to Sicily. During my first week there, I met up with fellow Inkblotter, Phoebe who was staying in Catania. We stopped at one of my favourite bars, Prestipino (espresso and baba’ for me and Coke Zero for her).

My second week was spent going to the beach in Giardini Naxos and hanging out in Taormina with my cousin and some friends. During that time I also ate lots of thing that I don’t usually eat in California, such as gelato (sorry, just never have been a fan of American ice cream) and lots and lots of fish.

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View from my bedroom.

In between my third and second week, I decided to spend a few days at my apartment in Catania, where I just decided to sleep and relax. My usual week, while I’m in California, is always jam-packed that I’m always driving seven days a week and I never have time to sleep in, so sleeping in till 10 a.m. was an absolute luxury. Taking a break from driving and traffic felt very liberating and I also decided to unplug during my stay in Catania (no cell phone or internet for almost a week). I spent my days taking walks, eating lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, and fish. At night I would relax with various face masks. It was a very relaxing and nourishing moment for my skin, mind, body, and soul.

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My final week was spent back in Taormina for a few final days of beach and shopping. I didn’t do a whole lot in regards to going out at night, although I occasionally did, I mostly wanted my stay in Sicily to be about recharging, spending time with my family and friends, and above all taking a moment to appreciate the little things in life. Like befriending a couple of feral kitties, or savouring all my favourite dishes.

I really enjoyed my stay in Sicily, and can’t wait to go back. Because as all Sicilians know, no one ever leaves Sicily forever. It’s always a ‘See you later,’ never a farewell.

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Review: Erno Laszlo New York – Multi Task Eye Serum Mask

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Eye-catching instant results!

A silky, all-in-one hydrogel eye patch formulated with a powerhouse of ingredients to tackle major signs of under eye dark circles, fine lines, and wrinkles.

This multi-tasking eye patch is a high-powered serum infused with algae extract, vitamin B3, and allantoin to deliver immediate results under the eye area.

What It Is: A hydrating eye serum gel mask

What It Does: Hydrates and nourishes the eye area, diminishing dark circles and fine lines

Verdict: It’s not always easy to find an eye mask the truly delivers. Most feel like a waste of time. Others tend to slip off, but this gel mask stays put meaning that you don’t necessarily have to lie down in order to keep it on you. I decided to pop this eye mask in the freezer for a few minutes prior to using it. I think that that truly added an element of extra relaxation. I really loved how the mask felt on my eye area. I left it on for about 30 minutes so all the serum had time to soak into my skin. I really loved how the serum felt on my skin while I had it on. It just felt very soothing and relaxing. When I removed the mask, my under eye area felt incredibly smooth and hydrated. I have hereditary dark under eyes, and this mask truly helped reduce the appearance of it. I used this mask before going to sleep, but I can see how it could also be used to prep the eye for makeup in the morning. This serum would truly make the perfect eye primer for concealer. I suggest you try out this eye mask if you want to pamper under your eyes and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and stress.

Price: $35 (pack of 6)

Where To Buy It: www.ernolaszlo.com

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Book Review: Almost Home by Madisen Kuhn

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A gorgeous poetry and prose collection that explores the meaning of “home” and the profound discovery of finding it within oneself.

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Pre-Order on Amazon

Publisher: Gallery Books

Price: $14.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

In this stunning third collection from Madisen Kuhn, Madisen eloquently analyzes some of life’s universal themes within the framework of a house. Whether it’s the garden, the bedroom, or the front porch, Madisen takes you into her own “home,” sharing some of the most intimate parts of her life so that you might also, someday, feel free to share some of yours.

Filled with beautiful hand-drawn illustrations from Melody Hansen, this boldly intimate, preternaturally wise, and emotionally candid collection encourages you to consider what home means to you—whether it’s in the lush, green-lawned suburbs or a city apartment—and, more importantly, explores how you can find it even when home feels like it’s on the far-off horizon.

Grade: B+

Review:

For someone like me who has been on the move since I was born, reading a book that explores the meaning of home was very relatable. What’s the difference between a house and a home? And how do you know when one feels just like a house and what makes a home a home? The poetry is very heartfelt and emotional. For some home is a physical place or location, while for others the meaning of home is a person. What makes us feel at home? Ultimately, it’s the place where we feel safe.

One of the most poignant lines was, “I am jealous of what you have but not of who you are. Regardless it withers me.” I’m sure many people have often felt this way, feeling envious of what someone may have but not being particularly keen on the person in question.

Many of the poems explore the meaning of finding a home within a person. I think that we all yearn to feel at home with someone, although oftentimes that is merely a mirage and we’re far lonelier together than when we are alone.

This poetry collection really hits a nerve for me because of my incessant search to feel at home. If you’re a fan of Rupi Kaur or Amanda Lovelace, then this book is for you.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Gallery Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Review: Glow Recipe – Watermelon Glow Jelly Sheet Mask

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I’m currently vacationing in Italy and decided to spend a week at my home in Catania. I took that week to completely relax and unplug (no internet, no cell phone, in other words, complete bliss!). I decided to use that week as way to recharge and dedicate myself to all things self-care (which meant lots of face masks, manicure, pedicure, and complete relaxation). One of the masks I packed in my suitcase was the Watermelon Glow Jelly Sheet Mask.

The Watermelon Glow Jelly Sheet Mask is a hydrogel sheet drenched in a full bottle of hydrating skin-cooling serum. Formulated with a blend of watermelon extract, hyaluronic acid, and centella asiatica extract that helps quench dehydrated skin leaving it soft, supple, and bouncy.

What It Is: A hydrating mask

Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid

Verdict: The first thing I noticed when taking the mask out of the package was the pleasant watermelon scent. I really liked how the gel felt on my skin. It was very refreshing and there was a nice tingling feel. The package said to leave the mask on for ten minutes, but I left it for about twenty instead. Once I removed the mask, it left my skin feeling very hydrated and plump. I really loved how soft it was. The mask wasn’t sticky like some serum soaked masks tend to me, but rather when I removed the mask, most of the serum had been absorbed by my skin. I used this mask at night, but on the package, it stated that it can also be used as a prep mask to smooth the look of skin and depuff before morning makeup. Another way to best gain the cooling effect would be to pop this mask in the fridge for about ten minutes prior to using it and it will help with the depuffing even more. All in all, I was happy with this face mask and would definitely purchase it. This one I think was sent to me in an Allure Beauty Box several months ago and just hadn’t had the time to test it out. So, if you’re looking for instant hydration, this is the quick remedy to quench dry skin.

Price: $16.97

Where To Buy It: Amazon

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Throwback Thursday: Nelly Furtado – Try

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Full disclosure; I’m not a fan of Nelly Furtado (musically speaking, don’t have anything against her personally) and really loathed the song that made her famous, I’m Like A Bird. But, since the winter of 2004 was still a time when MTV played music videos (at least in Italy), I came across her video for her second single from her second album called Try.

The video was directed by Sophie Muller who just happened to be one of my favourite music video directors (she’s directed a lot of videos for Garbage, No Doubt, Gwen Stefani, The Kills, Mika’s amazing Grace Kelly, Hole’s Doll Parts, and a bunch of other awesome bands). In other words, in typical Sophie Muller fashion, this video is simply stunning.

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Now, I don’t know if Muller was inspired by the 2003 film Cold Mountain for the colonial vibes of the video (Nelly Furtado is seen decked out in a traditional Portuguese dress as she faces various hardships), but it did seem to have the same wintery pioneer rural life aspect of the movie.

But apart from the stunning video, what really drew me in were the lyrics. There’s something fatally tragic in the lyric, “Then I see you standing there/Wanting more from me/And all I can do is try.” Nelly stated that apparently it was a song about true love (although it’s very dark to me) and for me, it seemed more like a song about wishing you could please someone you love, but also knowing that you’re incapable of doing so for a myriad of reasons.

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Revisiting this song kinda took me back to that winter of 2004, which felt very dark and lonely. There were so many things in my life what I was uncertain about, and love was one of those uncertainties. Sure, I was in love with someone back then, but if you’ve read My Bad Romance series, you kinda get the drift of how most of my loves have played out (Spoiler alert: unhappy endings). The strange thing about music and scents is that they can take you back to places at times that you had purposely pushed back in the forgotten zone of your brain. And let’s just say, there’s a reason why your brain had pushed those memories back.

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But the song is still tragically beautiful, as is the video, and even fifteen years later I fell in love with it all over again. For the record, I never became a fan of Nelly Furtado’s music, but I can admit that this one was a little masterpiece.

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Book Review: The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters

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Red Lady, Red Lady, Show us your face….

Release Date: December 10, 2019

Pre-Order on Amazon

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Price: $26.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

In 1991, Heather Cole and her friends were members of the Dead Girls Club. Obsessed with the macabre, the girls exchanged stories about serial killers and imaginary monsters, like the Red Lady, the spirit of a vengeful witch killed centuries before. Heather knew the stories were just that until her best friend Becca began insisting the Red Lady was real–and she could prove it.

That belief got Becca killed.

It’s been nearly thirty years, but Heather has never told anyone what really happened that night–that Becca was right and the Red Lady was real. She’s done her best to put that fateful summer, Becca, and the Red Lady, behind her. Until a familiar necklace arrives in the mail, a necklace Heather hasn’t seen since the night Becca died.

The night Heather killed her.

Now, someone else knows what she did…and they’re determined to make Heather pay.

Grade: A-

Review:

I’ll be honest, when I read the first chapter, I wasn’t too intrigued although it opened with a very disturbing admission, that the protagonist Heather had killed her best friend when she was a tween. It wasn’t until the following chapter reverted to the THEN portion of the story that I was hooked. The novel is sectioned in alternating chapters with a chapter in the present and the following chapter in the past. By far, the THEN chapters are way more interesting because it shows Heather as a twelve-year-old, and being best friends with Becca, and also with Rachel and Gia, whom like her and Becca also enjoy a fascination for the macabre. The girls are intrigued by deaths and serial killers so much that they decide to create the Dead Girls Club. A club made to share scary stories or true crime stories. The girls usually got together for these meetings at the basement of an abandoned house.

That summer though, Becca becomes obsessed with telling the story of the Red Lady, a witch who was killed in an atrocious manner. At first, the girls are intrigued by the stories, especially Heather, but she begins to resent the stories when she notices how it has begun to affect Becca. Because Becca is convinced that the Red Lady is real and the only one who can save her from her alcoholic, abusive mother.

In the present time, Heather receives a pendant that Becca was wearing the night of her death in the mail, which causes her to spiral in paranoia. Did somebody see her kill Becca? Is the Red Lady after her?

This book is so deliciously twisty that you find yourself questioning what’s real and what isn’t. I wouldn’t necessarily call Heather an unreliable narrator but more it’s an exploration of devout friendship and how often stories in our youth can begin to feel real if we allow ourselves to believe in them.

I honestly wish that we had gotten more chapters from the past or that we could’ve gotten a whole book about the Red Lady (the story was simply very fascinating as it was horrific). I suggest this novel to anyone who loves thrillers with a dash of supernatural spookiness into the mix.

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*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Poetry: Kissing Asphalt

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Photo courtesy of arhiva.dalje.com

The clouds are coming down low.

I don’t know where I’m going to go.

The rock star ran off with my soul.

He wants it because it makes him feel less alone.

I’m kissing asphalt tonight.

But I should be kissing you.

Why do you keep on stalking me?

Writing songs about me?

Phantom lover who adores to creep

And peers from afar when I weep,

Has come prepared to take me out

With only a simple stroke of his mouth.

I’m kissing asphalt tonight.

But I should be kissing you.

My blood’s all over the frigid sheets

Highway 95 has tasted my flesh.

I’m going down on you and I’m not coming (up)

My naked skin timidly peels,

As the wounds turn into scars unhealed.

I’m kissing asphalt tonight.

But I should be kissing you.

He spoke of love, passion, and soulmates.

Of easy girls that never cry.

But he never spoke of Zura,

The girl who almost died.

I’m kissing asphalt tonight.

But I should be kissing you.

I’m kissing asphalt tonight.

And it’s as bittersweet as you.

*

Did you enjoy this poem? You can find this poem and many others in Bleed Like Me: Poems for the Broken

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