Flowers You Can Smell


By Jalauna Phillips

(tw// depression, self harm, suicide) 


Every time I see you, I want to tell you. I wanted to tell you on that one crisp, sunny fall morning, when you were driving us to school. I was a freshman; you were a senior. Oh how cool I felt being your little sister! You were the superstar athlete, the teachers loved you, and you were the black boy with green eyes. Going to a predominantly white school, it felt good knowing I had a black hand to hold. We were running late, partially because my head was tight from the box braids I got the night before, but mostly because I was anxious about what the white girls would say about me. Fear slowed me down that morning. You broke your usual “silent ride” rule to remind me that you were irritated with me for always being late. I quietly told you I was nervous about my hair. You didn’t say anything else about me being late. You stopped the thoughts that were eating me alive. With a joking tone but sincere breath, you told me that I looked okay and that I shouldn’t care what they think. I should’ve told you then.


I wanted to tell you on that cold winter night. I was living on my own for the first time and fighting my usual seasonal depression. You were picking up your new pup that I babysat while you were at work. It had been a long day for you, I could tell by the weariness in your voice, you were fighting the season too. You were working at a job you hated, and your dog was shitting all over your apartment. You decided to sit this time. I asked how work was knowing the answer before I finished asking. You asked how my day was and I told you that I got the first copy of my book and how much I hated it. The paper was too thin, words were misspelled, and lines were off. You flipped through it and laughed. Not a comedic laugh, it was the one people do when they’re thinking, “you gotta be kidding me”. You broke your normal, “thanks, love you, bye” from the open door rule to stop the thoughts that were eating me alive. Thoughts that were everything but, “Jalauna, this is amazing.” You showed me grace for believing that success meant perfection and not that I was brave for doing something that I’ve never done before. I should’ve told you then.


I wanted to tell you on that hot summer day. We were at a football game, getting barbequed on the bleachers like the ribs Mawmaw makes on the 4th of July. The sun was closer to Earth that day. Knowing this, I still stupidly put on a black tshirt. I purposefully didn’t wear a hat because I didn’t want to mess up my short curls. As soon as we walked into the stadium that felt like it was under the sun’s microscope, I realized why I don’t go to football games in the second place, first place would be that I have no idea what’s going on. For a second, I saw stars in the daytime and thought my last words would be, “wait, was that a touchdown?” Before I got another shade darker, you gave me your hat, which felt like being thrown a life ring buoy after falling off a ship. I gave it back two minutes later because I knew it was my fault that I didn’t bring one in the first place. You didn’t hesitate to sternly refuse. I offered again a few minutes later but this time, you didn’t give me an empty “no. The second “no” reassured me that I am not a burden and I deserve a break from the heat. I should’ve told you then.

But I didn’t.


So, I will tell you now, in hope that someone still living will receive their flowers while they can still smell them, the first time you stopped the thoughts from eating me alive. My season had been going on for a couple years by that day. I had a bad habit of blaming and hurting myself, a habit that I’m still trying to unlearn today, that decided to pay me a visit. We were in our rooms after dinner, putting our finishing touches on the day. That night, mine included grabbing the sharpest object I could find and going to war with the leeches of depression. I guess yours included finishing up some homework because during my battle cry, you knocked on my door and walked in before I could answer. Oblivious to the standoff and tumbleweed rolling by, you asked for the electronic pencil sharpener. With avoidant eyes, I pulled the plug out of the socket and gave it to you. You thanked me and left. I looked down at my empty hands and realized that you disarmed me, unintentionally but oh, so timely.  You stopped a war that could have possibly ended with a casualty. I’m glad we don’t know if it would have.


These are your flowers, with a card that reads,

“Thank you, 

For having my back, for supporting me, for protecting me, for saving me. You are my hero, and TBDBITL – the best damn brother in the land.

Love, your little sister.”



  • Jahaira Marquez

    Literally so beautiful. 😭♥️

  • Cee Cee

    Wow ! This was so beautiful Launa! Grateful God sent your grace and comfort right on time.

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