Losing It

By | 5 December 2019

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.

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