Kissing you is like licking an icicle in temperatures below freezing. Somehow I’m stuck, while tasting cold and pain the entire time—but I can’t pull my tongue off yours. Or maybe it’s like those preteens in the movies with the braces and retainers and headgears that get intertwined in their first kiss.
Holding your hand is like sticking two Legos together and then realizing it doesn’t fit the design, but they’re linked to each other so well that no matter how hard I try to wrench them apart, they’ve already formed as one and my 3,417-piece Death Star is two Legos short.
Your touch is the cold water running over a burn. There’s relief in it—but it’s still a burn.
And as the fireworks shimmied out
into colored light particles
I held out my hand as if I could catch the sparks like fireflies—
as if I could catch a spark that would light me up
Stick out my tongue and catch it like a snowflake
and swallow radiance
My skin would glow like a Neutrogena commercial
and I would become brilliant
A couple is two
A few is three—maybe four
But then we’re getting close
And we are not a few
Liza’s on our dates
And when I’m not looking
Holds your hand
What a slut
Harry’s in the corner
Of Applebee’s—I think
I recognize the thick curls
Just under the Green Lantern cap
On his cell
All my past mistakes
Your eyelids cast
On your iPhone
You tell me you’re playing
But I know you
Have a contact list
Parasites, like lice,
Who run through
Your hair and tread
Messages in your mind
With 6 legs
And 8 eyes, bored
me to entertain
It is a feeling like disenchantment,
like the cleanup crew at Times Square shuffling
celebrators away minutes after midnight to sweep up the ticker-tape.
Like drinking glitter and dancing until it digests;
your whole body is filled with sparkle before settling into your toes,
like pulling the plug of a lava lamp
or setting the snow globe down after shaking it and watching everything hit the base
—how the porches darken one by one as the Christmas lights disappear
and the emptiness of the living room when the tree is taken down
and waiting days to kiss and feeling nothing when you do
and each year realizing the carnival gets less
and less fun and more
and more of a headache.
And when your little sister Amy asks you why you aren’t drinking
your Coconut Cocoa tea—
she pours a cup for Raggedy Ann—you take a sip and taste nothing
And the first time you watch Peter Pan without joining in on the chorus of, “I believe in fairies.”
And if you feel like the last day of summer
you’ve fallen out of love.
Remember those Spider-Man popsicles with the gumballs?
I wish I had one of your face so
I could chew your eyes out.
But then again, you’d be one of those cheap Fla-Vor-Ice freezer pops
in a pack of 75 sold in bulk at Sam’s Club.
They used to hand them out to us on Field Day
at Liberty Elementary School half-frozen, half-sticky sweet
liquid that choked the back of your throat
and it always rained at the end of the day.
We ate Gushers by the cyan colored pool sides
and kissed toads who turned into boys
who weren’t very good at kissing back.
I thought I could chew you into something soft
and blow you away.
But you weren’t easily impressed.
Summer’s sunblock left us cold.
You went swimming in your shorts
I went swimming in my bra
and then we went swimming in nothing at all.
But remember Fruit by the Foot shoved into our mouths
Sparklers looked like your eyes I wanted to kiss
and burn my lips.
I’ll tie myself to a bottle rocket—
say I made it to the moon and left you in a gumball machine
—only twenty-five cents.
One day, when I’m old I think I’ll say something like,
“Remember being beautiful?”
But it’s like asking,
“Remember being brunette?” after dying my hair blonde.
But of course, I wouldn’t. Because being brunette didn’t change the way I ate a cherry: picking off the stem and swishing it around my mouth like Listerine until the fruit slipped off and spitting the seeds into my oscillating fan hoping one would catch a blade so I could see what happened.
It wouldn’t change my mother or my father. Bleached roots did not suddenly inspire me to switch affections between high school boyfriends or favorings of political parties. My favorite candy was still Sour Apple Sour Punch Straws. Two sugars, half and half—now and then. Right now, I scowl at my Fashion Lashes when they fail to turn me into Twiggy. I threaten my hair-straightener with the new occupation of “wishbone” when it disappoints in taming my mane.
And there is a hollowness when I see photographs of girls in bodies I will never attain—you know those girls, when every feature they possess looks like sex—and I’m not even talking about breasts or ass—but even their collar bones, tanned knuckles, eyelids, earlobes, even their cuticles are sexier than yours. Things I didn’t even know could look beautiful, do.
And then I think, one day, I won’t even remember being beautiful.
What it feels like—I won’t be able to describe it, like I could explain how a dead jellyfish squelches between toes at the Jersey shore, or the tickling of six wiry legs of a firefly scaling the hairs on my arm. Or your calloused hand in mine—or his smooth hand striking across my cheekbone. Or sticking my fingers into a boiling pot of spaghetti and calling out for my mother.
But, being beautiful—it isn’t a sensation.
All these girls thinking if they lose weight they can float—or fly
but they forget the jet plane;
heavy anchors in the blue—
studying fragile frames of fledglings
who become Blue Jays but never Swallows.
Only chews and spits.
I knew a girl who thought donating blood helped lose the pounds
she became her own vampire;
bleeding herself beautiful.
Girls who transform into sheets of paper,
hover on the water surface for seconds
and then absorb like toilet paper and sink.
I think, even if the time came
their spines wouldn’t support the wings.
On Wednesday his heart stalled
so he put himself in neutral
and told her to get out and push.
Said the last shotgun rider left him with a bang—“right here,”
then down, forefinger out—middle of his chest.
She was a pretty little thing
with the strength of a field mouse.
“You’re like the monkey bars,”
her sister Abby would say. “People always slipping off,”
sweaty first date palms
“sometimes the strong ones make it across.”
But he wasn’t a date, just a friend—just
an ’07 yellow Camaro driver
just a Transformers enthusiast,
just a Paper Mario champion,
just 140,000 hairs on a head.
And she wasn’t a girl,
just an oar used to propel himself
further down the river.
30 minutes spent on hair flying out the window
and I’m sure more cautious girls would keep the thing rolled up—
check herself out in the passenger side mirror
legs crossed and heeled feet slightly tapping to the radio
enough to seem interested in your taste of music and look sexy
without appearing to have a seizure as I do
when I hear a song I like
—and politely ask you to turn on the air conditioning.
“How can you hear with your hair wrapped around your ear?” he asked.
I laughed and the girl who smells like limes and ties her hair with green ribbons
says, “Nice mop,” and giggles,
but not with me.
It’s a shame she had such a pretty laugh
and beautiful blonde hair that didn’t match her disposition.
I looked to you who said nothing.
If I wore ribbons in my hair: pink or baby blue
or lemon colored curled bow-ends with scissor sides
and sprayed Sun-In in my hair bleaching streaks and smelling like lemons
and together that girl with the ill-fitting laugh and I
would create Sprite or Sierra Mist; would you have kept your mouth shut?
But I have no ribbons in my hair
or pigtails or plaits or strawberry-printed scrunchies.
“It’s got the wind in it,” I said. “I think that makes it beautiful.”