When I lost it—tipsy from stolen beers
in a red VW bus parked on a suburban street, 19—
it wasn’t to my boyfriend. No, it wasn’t
to that good-boy baseball player.
Even though he had been waiting for a year.
Even though we would get back together
that fall and he would never know,
and he would think
he was the one. The taker
didn’t even know there was anything
to take. It was the last day of the summer
we spent holding hands in malls
for air conditioning, suggesting
but never actually seeing any movies,
sharing tall sodas, studying for summer classes:
the poet and the scientist, a dichotomy
I found strangely comforting, as if
I would be safe in the hands of this future
doctor, whose phone call I awaited
each night. Not-His-Real-Dad paid cash
for every VW he restored to be resold
to hobbyists. I too felt polished, pristine.
I was the prize rising out of the front seat
in white short shorts and Italian sunglasses.
He had worked on me all summer, and I
was ready, maybe. Maybe I thought
he deserved it, for all he’d gone through.
Maybe I liked it when he tapped
Not-Dad’s shoulder that afternoon at the pool
and disappeared inside to talk.
When they returned, we had two options:
Dad said you could sleep over,
in the house in separate rooms, or
in the bus…we could sleep together.
And just like that, my sex
had been negotiated,
certified and certainly happening.
With beers swiped from the garage fridge, we mounted
the red bus, with its red carpet and red curtains
and red sheets on the mattress, never slept in.
I didn’t bleed. At first, it kinda hurts, I said.
Then suddenly it didn’t, and we were
on the road, set
on drifting far in opposite directions.
When we finished, he poured water
in the rubber to check for leaks.
We couldn’t afford to make any mistakes.
Maybe that’s why I waited. How my friends
will get a kick out of this someday,
when I can tell it without shame.
And I swear, I’d tell them
I never felt more like a woman
than months later when I saw this picture:
Him, with another girl from our school
posed in front of the red bus, parked on the PCH.
His hand poised on her shoulder, her big hair
wild from the sea. And I knew exactly
what he would do with her later that night—
How the thing worked, oh, how it tasted.
- 109: NO THEME 12with C Maling & N Rhook 108: DEDICATIONwith L Patterson & L Garcia-Dolnik 107: LIMINALwith B Li 106: OPENwith C Lowe & J Langdon 105: NO THEME 11with E Grills & E Stewart 104: KINwith E Shiosaki 103: AMBLEwith E Gomez and S Gory 102: GAMEwith R Green and J Maxwell 101: NO THEME 10with J Kinsella and J Leanne 100: BROWNFACE with W S Dunn 99: SINGAPOREwith J Ip and A Pang 97 & 98: PROPAGANDAwith M Breeze and S Groth 96: NO THEME IXwith M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHwith M Takolander 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRICAN DIASPORAwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones