Because the first time I kissed a boy I was disgusted. It happened in the last minutes of recess, behind the swings, under the creaky bridge of the old wood structure that we always called a castle. I had been told that princesses always kiss boys. I didn’t know what I was doing, and neither did he. Our small tongues like slugs, slimy and awkward in each other’s mouths.
I thought, this is love, it has to be.
Because when I was too young, a man too old told me he loved me. I didn’t know what I was doing, but he did. He gave me things: movies to make me laugh, and all the ones about ghosts, a new set of paintbrushes, a beautiful marble stamp with my name carved inside. there was a back room full of videos and the wet smell of watercolors drying.
I was carved inside.
People ask me why I don’t paint anymore.
I was fifteen, and summer was just beginning. A slow breeze was lifting the curtains. I was spooning my best friend. The two of us cupped in the soft bowl of a papasan chair, nestled like fragrant fruit ripening, curled into each other. I was fascinated by the way her hair curled soft and golden, so close to me. Close enough to do anything. There was too much closeness. I kissed the freckles at the nape of her neck. She jumped up and screamed, demanding, What the hell was that. Thinking quickly I laughed- The look on your face!
She didn’t know what I was doing, and neither did I.
Because when I was fifteen, I thought I was in love with a girl across the country whom I had never met. My mother found my diary and read it: my fervent declarations of love, pages covered with a girl’s name, covered in hearts. My mother screamed, demanding, Tell me this is not true! I said, yes, you are right, it is not true.
She knew what I was doing, and so did I.
I thought, this is love,
protection and deceit,
it has to be.
Because my first real love had a love like a strangling fig. He took and took of me, until my well was dry. And then he took my dirt and my stone walls. I was carved inside.
He said, Everything is for you. I live for you. Breathe for you. Bleed for you. I would die without you. And I will, I will.
I wanted to know, is this love?
And he said, It has to be.
I knew what he was doing, but wished that I didn’t.
I thought, all I ever know of love is blood. It has to be.
Because the first time I met you I was scared you wouldn’t like me. You said I held your hand too tight. But inside of an elevator you kissed me quick, and you laughed at my stunned face and wide open eyes. I stood there for a second after the door opened, wanting it to close,
wondering what I could do to make you do that again.
Because I know the way you hold me.
Because we talk until dawn until my throat is sore from shared secrets and quiet laughter. I made myself sick one night staying up with you. I make myself sick sometimes, glutted on longing stuck in my throat. I want to kiss your eyes closed and watch them open to see how you look and how you look at me. I want you to stop me between floors and trap me in a confined space. I want the curve of my lips along your collarbones, I want it as my first thought in the moments before knowing.
Because in the quiet pre-dawn moments I even let myself want the things I cannot let myself say, the way if you say a wish it will not come true. I don’t know what I’m doing.
I think, I am so scared,
Because I am so scared.