(originally published in CrossConnect)
They killed me, those boys. Every day, getting off the bus, they killed me. I’d be walking away from the stop already, trying not to look, hearing them draw together and trail at my heels like a pack of wolves. I’ve wasted too much time since then trying to figure out why I feel dead inside.
They don’t know what they did to me, but I’m not God, I can’t forgive them. One of them was the first boy I ever kissed. That was spin-the-bottle, behind the holly bushes at the end of the canal. The trashy, sandy space between the seawall and the bowling alley parking lot, where the branches of the mangroves trailed down into the murky water like the sad arms of ghosts. He kissed me there. His lips were wet, trembling, soft as a child’s, and softer than mine.
Why’d he kiss me, then? That’s what I’ve asked a thousand times. Girls, did you ever kiss a man you were ashamed of? One you wouldn’t be caught dead with in other circumstances? The answer is yes. We all did. But, following our mistake, did we then gather up our friends and acquaintances and confront the unfortunate man daily, taunt him with his ugliness every single day for a year? Did we, in a gang of six or ten, pant and bark at him as wild dogs, throwing flecks of spittle onto the back of his fleeing, burning neck?
On better days he wasn’t cruel, but fast and solid, when I bounced against him in a crowded game of flashlight tag. His immovable, sweaty arms encircled me one late spring twilight, and though I wriggled and strained to get away, I wondered what it was like; making love with a boy, how it would feel, our naked bodies pressed together, his aroused skin slipping into my aroused skin, male into female like a dull knife into butter.
There were also the black boys at the back of the room. They wore their clothes differently, as if the cloth covering them wasn’t important, wasn’t doing them any favors. The way their dark skin bled out of the shirt-cuffs like hot ink made me crazy. It was as if women were already part of them, not something foreign. One boy touched my ass, not sly or shy, just placing his open palm against my turned hip like it was a loaf of bread. He never looked my way without smiling.
Once, I was almost raped. I made a mistake and went to this older guy’s apartment, as clean and tidy as a church. That one climbed atop me again and again, rumpling his black-sheeted bed and it seemed like hours went by, my legs twin automatic pistons, pushing his nude weight off and away. He didn’t become violent, so finally he quit trying. But later, I let him teach me how to kiss. To leave off a man’s mouth slowly, gently, instead of rising away like a slap interrupted.
Seems like they all have a thing for plain, big-titted blondes, doesn’t it? The sweetest one I ever had, a model, brought me a warm washcloth, after. His whole body was as hard and smooth and glossy as a horse’s. He held my knees up and washed me like I was a baby, but I never saw him again. The flesh may mesh, but boys perfect like that don’t ever forget why you went with them in the first place. And, girls, truly — are there any other kind but the kind that kill?
I love the idea of a man, regardless.