Initial Moment of Attraction: Chests concave and heart-minds spazz out in one ecstasy-filled second. You've seen him for months, years even, but this time it is something new. He's getting older. He must be mature. He must have money to spend on lobster tail. His eye color is the most perfect shade of whatever it is you've ever seen. Your eyes engage in a manic-orange glow of a shitty lampshade, your innards turn sickly warm. Instinctively fingering your hair, you look again. Immediately a flounder-eyed response is hooked, reeled, cleaned, fileted. You both lap up the sun, feel it for the first time in maybe weeks. You are so glad you skipped cheerleading today. Things have changed. This leads to a sudden but moronically temporary state of denial.
Moronically Temporary State of Denial: Luckily for you, you have a short attention span and a lack of self-control. But for a while, this is a thing. You push away any feelings. He doesn't exist, it was someone else who winked at you on your fifteenth birthday outside of the Ingles, it was someone else who got bailed out by your daddy after he drove drunk to his family court date. You live in a windmill of shame every time this person's name is mentioned. You live in a small town. Things are bad for you. You run into him. Things are worse for you. Eyes catch the flash of his crow's feet as he fuels his truck downtown. Parked. Approaching. Tiny rose buds have camped out in your cheeks, betraying your otherwise coy exterior. You speak.
You greet, and stumbling vowels, drawn out vinyl-cracked small talk questions ensue.
"How's it going?"
"Oh. Taking the girls to their Mom's, you know..."
Eyes roam, a low-buzz overcomes the conversation, which soaks up rays of chlorophyll faster than you can think. You itch inside, and teeth gnash as you stop yourself from pouncing. His greying hair makes you think he should know better. He doesn't. You remember when he taught you eighth grade art: figure drawing. Was that really three years ago? Said you had "real potential" and a "unique perspective". Microscopic sweat beads swell on his upper lip, and you know you both want you to wipe it with your tongue. You beautifully off-handedly suggest exchanging numbers. How did you do that, you minx with your codeine-soaked suggestions and your persistent lazy eye?
"Cool. Might...shoot you a text."
You are horrified and aroused. You have accepted a willing desire.
Willing Desire: You want to shine at him with mirrors in your eyes while your soil-caked fingernails click on the loosening button of his button-down. You want to take him all the way, erase your teeth for him and dart some curious fingers about. You feel yourself get wet. A Vidalia onion scent of ancient seed blankets your seat. You think about being splayed open in a field somewhere exotic enough, his arms above you and your scabbed ankles above his arms, resting on bronzed knowing shoulders. Gossamer pushes and gauzed moans slowly quake out in a summer's air. The big moment, which is sweetly painful in its unnaturally natural long length, hits you simultaneously, of course. Decrescendo and caress.
But that's only a fantasy.
Really, you're just hanging out, and you've vaped too much hash oil to talk. You're at his place, but you brought the oil.
"Didn't have stuff like this...when I was your age..."
There's nothing left to say. He seems vaguely concerned, mouth half-parted with dogged anticipation. Your tongue is suddenly impaling his front, and his fingers lock on your cake-like thighs. A greasy film enveloped this moment before it could happen, due to your age and due to his age, and due to your lack of a steady social outlet for drugs, and due to his alcoholism. Rules exist for a reason, you've heard. An age difference this big is wrong, you've heard. But you ignore that and rock your hips a little so his brim-like fingers can keep painting up your blue-veined trunks. Your fantasy realized is a nightmare.
Fantasy Realized is Nightmare: The next morning, you awaken with the warm sensation of forty-something flesh sticking to your spine and a lazily growing stiffness pushing your lower back. You have a chemistry test in three hours, then cheerleading practice after school. You should call your steady boyfriend, probably. Thoughts crop up in every possible space, making you want to actually vomit. You excuse yourself. You actually vomit. Why did your sixteen-year-old body drink four glasses of scotch in three hours? The liquid courage is purged, and you grab your things, kissing his slumbered sandpaper-flushed cheek as you scuttle away almost quietly.
In chemistry class you do worse than usual. Formulas are instantly dissolved in your thoughts. Copper doesn't exist. Your mind's projector constantly replays the sheen of your juice on his chin, the way his eyes burned yours white-hot while it was all happening. You shudder and drop your ballpoint pen. No one sees. Pick it up. You pull out your phone, shove it in your hoodie pouch. You break up with your steady boyfriend via text message.
Shameful Damn it all to Hell Full-On Passion: You have been consumed. You answer his drunken phone call at a family barbeque, crouching behind a trashcan while you tell him what you plan to do him later. Your ex-boyfriend has sent you twenty-something Facebook chat emoji of a crying cat in the last thirty seconds. They blow up your phone with such veracity right as you hear your strange lover's moan. Things are reaching a point, but you can't quit. He knows where the g-spot is and that's so much better than anything else you've had at this point in your adolescence. You don't want pulled pork ever again.
It has to end soon.
It's becoming perverse for the sake of being unconventional. Or was that what it was the whole time? You don't know. You don't really have the time or patience to analyze it. You emerge from behind the trash, preparing to answer questions about your now ex-boyfriend, cheerleading, high school. The demise of things seems—inevitable.
Inevitable Demise of Passion: You move on. He sends you a picture of a backyard fire at his place, the caption:
"come on, be brave, it's warm."
You don't respond. You don't talk to him anymore. You assume he gets it. Sometimes you think about him. Your mom mentions pulled pork for dinner two weeks later and you cringe. His Jeep Cherokee drives by the next month, slows down at your house, your parents' house, and you blush bright red like a bleeding fruit. But soon enough, you move on.
You feel a hurt twinge of nostalgia as someone else, a safely boring guy from chemistry class, plows away at you from atop his parents' rust colored leather sofa, grunting as his neck hair pricks up. He wants to take you to the movies next week, he had said. His treat. You shut it out, look to the ceiling fan, hope for a release.
You know though, that there will be no release.
Kate Jayroe is from Little Mountain, South Carolina, and currently resides in Portland, Oregon. A graduate of the University of the South in Sewanee, TN, she is currently in the MFA program at Portland State University. She served on staff for the 2015 Sewanee Writers' Conference, and her work can be found in Oxford American Online and KnoxZine Independent Magazine.