when i was seven, it was a girl named ashley spelled ashely. she was my best friend. i met her through my aunt.
she’d come over and we would sprawl out in the grass,
her dresses were always stained with the skin of the grass, my overalls
splashed with dirt.
i loved her eyelashes. they would look up at the stars
and fall down to her cheeks like a paintbrush.
she was mean to me, but she’d hold my hand and it would lift a weight from my chest.
she would kiss my cheeks and say, “you’re not pretty, but you’re my best friend”,
and i’d treat her like she was a constellation.
it stopped when her mother said our friendship was too “homo” and that i seemed too “gay”.
i didn’t see her again for ten years, and her mother was still standing behind her, her tongue was still a bullet.
after that, i would not hold hands with girls. i made sure we were far apart before i breathed,
never gave cheek kisses. i wrapped my arms around myself
beneath my sweaters, but still felt
myself longing for different girls,
some that just passed on the street. i would wonder how soft their hair and lips were.
second, when i was thirteen, it was augusta. i never hugged her. she asked me why,
i said i didn’t like it. i was afraid to offend her, to lose her.
she was sixteen and wasn’t shy. her eyes were always moving over mine like satellites,
her hands digging in my bones.
once she said she wanted to massage me, so she did. her fingers trailed down my inner thighs, made circles under my breasts.
i didn’t crawl away from her, just held my breath.
she told me to massage her, placed my hands on her breasts, her inner thighs.
the rest is a blur, a car ride of exploration and new worlds.
her body was a map, and i was traveling the world.
it stopped years later, because she said she didn’t love me, she was just “curious.” she said my hands were invisible, my heart was a sandstorm,
my body not made correctly.
all of those years that we hid behind the term “best friends”,
those years i buried in journals
never made it past that.
there have been others, others that i keep tucked away quietly behind my tongue, most have called me “a phase”, a “mistake”.
i crawled even further inside my mind,
tried to rewire my heart. my uncle cackles at Ellen on tv, “what a fucking bulldyke.” my aunts laugh with him,
they don’t see that she is me, in a sense, that i am her.
my brother says “fag” every other sentence and i am terrified that one day he’ll say it to me and see it behind my eyelids.
i’ve made myself kiss men, let them build from my bones. i’ve made love to them, sometimes like a corpse,
sometimes like fire,
every time i felt like i was being swallowed further,
of all the things i do without fear of being accepted, i don’t know why i play with my future like this.