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Hotel room. Sixteen.
Sheridan, the other side of town. His wife had kicked him out after he told her about me. My school friend sat in her car parked in the lot, reading Seventeen or maybe Cosmo, waiting for me. Me, standing in my blue and pink flowered dress, hiding the blue thong and lacey white bra we’d bought that day, the tags and receipt downstairs in the back of her car.
He took the dress off me and I stood in that cold room that smelled like bleach and hotel sheets and sleep and pacing feet and him and adrenaline and laws about to be irrevocably broken. He didn’t notice that my thong was too big for me because he was busy pulling it off with his teeth, popping the clasp on my bra without looking away from my eyes. Lips parted with hunger. Eyes looking so hard they penetrated through my milky white skin in the dusty light coming in through the crack in the drawn shades. He sat on the end of the bed as I laid there. He wore his shorts and his belt, his shirt the only thing he’d let me take off. A crumpled heap on the wood pile of the fire we were about to ignite.
He looked at me. Hairless, like a child. Reached out to stroke my leg. Slowly. His eyes, carving a careful path over every inch of my bare skin. My breasts, small bumps with rigid peaks, solid ice from the cold. I felt the need to apologize for being sixteen when I wanted to be thirty. I wished my breasts were bigger, fought the urge to cross my arms and legs, to crawl into a ball under the sheets and hide away from his devouring eyes. I begged my friend to knock on the door but she didn’t and I couldn’t move, his eyes still on me. Fingers stroking my thigh, getting closer. This is what you wanted, I told myself. I laid there like a corpse ready for autopsy. Small. I looked anywhere but at him, at my body that wasn’t my body anymore and wondered if this was what love felt like.
Fingers. On. Me. There was a woman in the arch of my back, his hunger electric, my head falling back, body ruffling sheets. I felt wanted, and I wanted to melt into his hands. I tried to relax into him but the air was cold and my breasts were small and my hips stiff, not wanting to roll open, not wanting his touch. This man, older than my father. This girl, wanting to escape this body. The arch in my back disappeared, and the woman with it. I lay like a child with her legs spread open to the world and hoped it would end, my heart beating, muscles clenching in quiet resistance. His eyes, boring into me. Stop. Keep going. Wrongness settled between us, our shoulders pulled taut. We kept going.
I dressed myself in the bathroom, already missing his eyes. At my naked body in the mirror, I smiled. Chest and cheeks red with touch.
Your shower. Seventeen.
Orange fluorescent light and curly pubic hairs on the back of the toilet. A woman does not live here. We are in your shower. My knees against the hard plastic basin, numb already. I feel the floor dipping in the middle with the weight of our bodies and secrets. Feeling like we are tipping off the edge of something. We are losing ourselves, toes crammed against the shower wall, your feet blocking the drain. A puddle of water to cushion my sore knees. Eyes looking at me with hunger. They slip closed as you take my head and pull me to you, push me away. You smell like Old Spice and the water keeps getting in my mouth and drops bounce off the broad of your back onto my red-beaten chest.
Are you thinking of my mother? Wondering where she is and how much time we have? I can feel it in the stiff set of your spine. I want to make her disappear, so I love you harder. Steam rises. My lips are falling off and you are pulling away telling me I am hurting you and your eyes are not closed. You are not feeling me. I am drowning in the water and in your disappointment and my knees are stinging, the bones yelling at me to get up and run far far away from this shower and this man. I can tell you heard the voice too, the one that visits us when we are together. It says that you are wrong for standing naked in the shower with a seventeen year old girl who should be at home doing her Chemistry homework. You hate yourself for every moment you steal from her, but how you want, and how she wants. How she throws her head back and stares into your eyes like she sees right through, sees the parts you hate most and takes them into herself. To love.
Your bed. Eighteen.
I stripped my clothes off piece by piece while your back was turned, looking at your computer screen. Look at me. When did you stop looking at me? Those eyes, the ones that devoured me on that hotel bed. When you still had the feeling of the wait, the tickle of skin not yet touched on the tips of your fingers. Your want for me outweighing your guilt. Just let go! I wanted to yell when you couldn’t come, when you stopped trying. Muscles creating warmth through memory, not desire. I need, I need. My throat would close around the words. My hands gripping my pillow at night until sleep silenced the girl inside me who thrashed. Desperate to escape her skin. To slip into yours.
You made excuses: you had work to do. My mother was coming home soon; she would catch us. Didn’t I have a test to study for? I laid in your bed with my body on your sheets and waited for you to see that I was bleeding out; every tap of your keyboard was another plea my lips did not form. You couldn’t stop thinking about my mother or your job, your ex-wife or your children. It was never just me in the bed with you. I laid on those cold sheets that stayed cold no matter how long I waited for you. I didn’t know if I could stay there anymore in that bed with a man who closed his eyes when I touched him, unable to bear the sight of my beautiful milky white skin. Hairless. A child devoured, someone – a woman? – left in her place, soft and fledging on the sheets. I didn’t know how to leave.
Look at me, I begged, lying on my back as you stood over me, fingers clutching the backs of my knees. Eyes closed, lines across your forehead, you fought the voices that told you to look away. Look at me. I watched your eyelids squeeze, flutter, never releasing. You came, screeching. Wounded. An animal crying, crawling into the woods. I slipped. Faded. Fell. Your eyes, they opened. But me, I was gone.