Touching You

December 31, 2012
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Before she stopped talking to you, your mother used to insult you with compliments.

The nicest and meanest thing she ever said to you was that she hated your hair. You were twelve.

“I hate your hair,” she said after he fifth glass of wine. “It’s beautiful. It’s so much better than mine. Like that singer’s.”

“Beyoncé?” you ask, hoping to make her smile.

She doesn’t.

“The blonde one.” She snaps her fingers, too sloppily for it to make any noise. “Taylor Swift. Her. I hate that.”

When you’re thirteen, you fall in love with the girl that sits beside you in English class and sometimes gives you gum. You never tell her, but you tell everyone you’re gay and decide to cut off all your hair, just to see if your mother notices.

But you can’t bring yourself to do it, so you settle for tracing around your eyes with thick, thick black lines every morning.

Your mother doesn’t notice, and the girl never looks at you again.

Your sophomore year of high school, you’re in love again. But this time, she loves you back. Almost as much as she loves loving boys in front of everyone else.

You try not to stare at her as you sit alone in the corner of the cafeteria, because she’s told you a million times, people notice that.

Instead, you read Shakespeare and listen to the faraway sound of her laughing with her latest boyfriend.
Juliet stabs herself and her laugh in the background stabs you.

She’s the only person who’s touched you in years. You’re pretty sure that’s worth all the heartache in the world.

You’re lying side-by-side in your bed and she’s stroking your sweaty hair, all the way down to where it covers your naked shoulders.

“You’re so beautiful,” she says. You shrug.

“Not like you.” She’s slim and has smooth olive skin and shiny black hair and you can’t imagine a more beautiful girl.

“I wish I looked like you,” she says softly. “You have beautiful hair. Has anyone ever told you how beautiful your hair is?”

“No,” you lie.

When she breaks up with her boyfriend because he told everyone about the time they had sex in the choir room, you throw out the idea of telling people.

“Everyone loves you,” you say. “They wouldn’t care.”

“Yeah, they would,” she counters. “I’ve got enough rumors going around about me. I don’t need this going around too.”

“I’m sorry,” you say. She shrugs and kisses you until you’re both smiling again.

The chance to tell people because she’s leaving for college and there’s no point telling people now, I’m leaving this pathetic excuse for a town behind soon anyway.

You ask if you can help her pack but she refuses, says that she doesn’t want her parents meeting you and getting suspicious.

You don’t call the first week she’s gone. You go back to school on your own and read Shakespeare at lunch and skip P.E. so nobody can say you stared at them in the girls’ locker room and wait for her to call you.

But she doesn’t call you, so after two weeks you give in and dial her number late at night, probably too late now that you think about it but the phone’s already ringing.

“Hello?” It’s an unfamiliar voice, and you weren’t prepared for that so you pause before speaking.

“Who’s this?” you ask, and instead of answering the voice speaks to someone on her end.

“Babe, I think it’s for you,” she says, and your heart clenches.

“Hello?” And now it is her voice, but it sounds so different and that terrifies you.

“It’s me.”

“Oh.” There’s an awkward pause.

The next few minutes are full of rushed explanations that 'I can be myself here, I can be out here and nobody cares' and questions of 'If nobody cares, then why can’t we…?' and answers that 'I don’t need anything tying me down there. I love you but I just can’t do this'.
You hang up the phone before she can say another word.

Nobody touches you for two more years.

Your first week of college, at a college on the other side of the country from hers, you meet a boy at a party thrown by your roommate’s step-brother’s friend Paul.

“You have beautiful hair,” he says when he sits down next to you. “I was looking at you from over there and thinking wow, that girl has beautiful hair.” He’s slurring a little and he takes another sip from his red plastic cup before adding, “Anyone ever told you that before?”

“No,” you lie.

You let him talk to you for another hour. And when he drops his empty cup on the floor and kisses you, you let him, closing your eyes and shutting your ears to the loud music and marveling that somebody is actually touching you again.

“I’m gay, you know,” you say as his lips move up your neck. You’re upstairs in somebody’s bedroom now and you’re not entirely sure how you got there. Your eyes have been closed since he first kissed you.

“Oh.” He doesn’t move away, is just still for a second. “Do you want me to stop?” he finally asks.

You mean to say yes, but you don’t.

“I don’t care,” you say instead.

He doesn’t stop.

Later, you wait for him to fall asleep before you curl up into a naked ball against his body and the air is so cold but his skin is so warm.

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