For Lizzy, there were three first kisses: one stolen, one lost, and one that counted, but she only kept one of them.
The first was during the summer before sixth grade. She was sitting under the skylight in a plane of sunlight watching a soap opera on television when her mother’s boyfriend used his key to let himself in. He got a beer from the kitchen and sat on the sofa beside her, sipping quietly. When the show broke for commercial he said he was going to teach her a very important lesson. He put his beer down on the coffee table without using a coaster, grabbed her shoulders with his big hands, and pushed his lips into hers. His mustache scratched, his breath was sour, his pores looked big enough to swallow her whole, and his tongue was a shock.
She stared up at the skylight and let the sun whittle her pupils to splinters while the soap opera’s tinny organ music rose and fell. Finally, he pulled back and squinted at her as if he were reading a fortune cookie. “So. What do you think?”
She wiped her mouth and blinked. She felt like someone had held her at gunpoint and rifled through her pockets. All she could see was the frame of burning yellow light. “I don’t know,” she said.
He laughed and punched her in the shoulder. “That’s right. You don’t know.” He gave her a dollar and sent her to the store where she bought candy and lip gloss.
The rest of this story is being held in a box in the basement. To set her free, contact me about publishing!*
After I wrote this, I wondered what I have against men. Really, nothing. I’m lucky to know and love some really wonderful men. Perhaps I was just reacting to recent events in politics?
Oh, well. Who knows. At least I got a story out of it.
You writer you!
–puff up my chest and flex my biceps a little–
Gripped me to the end.. you write brilliantly Anna..
Thank you kindly. You must be a fast reader. I am abysmally slow.
well I read it as soon as it popped into my email box Anna.. but yes I am a fast reader… 😀
Beautiful. And spooky too.
Spooky! I love spooky!
Very raw and immediate – truly gripping. I don’t mean raw as in ‘unformed’, but leaving me with my skin scraped off. You know.
Oh you poets! The older I get, the more things I like raw–raw sugar, raw fish– forget those stinking refineries, keep it real.
I think of a youthful winding river trying to cut a small path – so many obstacles and unknowns.
Beautiful, unsettling, and that first line is magic.
Man, I spent more time writing that first line than I did the rest of the story. Thank you for noticing!
Wow, Anna. Beautifully, hauntingly written. Had me gripped and scraped raw, too. Something so familiar about those early experiences and both the ache and delight of them you describe so well. I felt myself reliving my own parallel moments… Thank you!
Lisa! This is (finally, finally) the story we were talking about! Can you believe it took this long to make time for it? xoox
This took my breath, chère Anna. I bow down to you once again! Love from Provence
Thank you so much for reading, Aia! xoox on both cheeks to you
I don’t like to do the “I’m not worthy” thing, but I feel like if I compliment you on a story like this, it’s like Joe LocalCountrySinger telling Johnny Cash that Johnny has a strong voice. Anyway, you have a strong voice, Anna.
You’re more like Johnny Cash than I ever will, be, Kevin. I am very pleased you liked it.
Okay, I’ll accept that. Would you be more like Joni Mitchell then, perhaps (“each so deep and superficial, between the forceps and the stone”)? I doubt that you’re turning into a misandrist. That word really doesn’t roll off the tongue like “misogynist”, does it?
Joni! *swoon* *flutter flutter* Okay, you be Johnny and I’ll be Joni. This is going to be fun.
Missed reading your stories! This was great! I often wonder the same thing after writing my stories: what do I have against men? haha…
Ha! Perhaps we need psychotherapy? Perhaps we’re repressing something? Or maybe we’re inventing straw men because it adds a certain something to the tension? Whatever– I’m just glad I’m not alone!!
I recall some specific posts of yours that make this story no surprise to me at all. Your writing here is beautiful and brilliant and clear, like a cold river rushing right at me. And I don’t swim. This one caught me by the throat.
We don’t need to have something against the male of the species to have absorbed these kinds of experiences and have them ooze onto the page when we sit down to write. My blackness doesn’t always permeate my writing overtly, but my femaleness is always in the work, even as I write male characters. I’m very aware of whatever male dynamic I’m writing because the consequences of so many male actions is written on my soul. I’m not a perpetual victim, just wired to have a long emotional memory. Wired like a writer, I guess.
(Since we don’t have editors: In the paragraph that begins, “It was getting dark earlier”, this “… under the raw, gray sky devoid of their car came to a full stop and idled for a moment”, was difficult for me to read. Is it all in there or is it just me? And the last paragraph has side by side ‘about’s. <3)
You’re right about the difference between having absorbed something and attacking in cold blood. We really can’t and should not try to stem these powerful truths– if we do, our writing will lose its truth. It’s just that sometimes I look at something I wrote and see myself between the lines and worry what others think. I am comforted to know that you know that feeling too.
And you’re right about those trouble spots– thank you for pointing them out. Just think what we could do with real editors, like what Lish did for Carver? When I make wishes on stars or candles, I often wish for an editor like that.
Sad story with a robust sense of strength… some of which is in the details:
“There were several overgrown junipers flopped like unborn creatures along the side of the house and an ancient ivy engulfing the fence, so thick it could stand alone if the fence were removed…”
thanks for posting.
Aha! Thanks to you John for noticing the details. Leave it to the photographer to see the scene, right?
Your writing just kills me, in the best possible way. Gorgeous stuff.
It feels wrong to be happy for killing you, even in the best possible way, but Yay! I killed Averil, who consistently kills me back! It’s so fun, isn’t it?
Wow. That’s some powerful stuff. It kept me reading, even though I’d promised myself to get back to work. You really have talent, girl!
Great to read your words Anna. Good stuff here.
OMG – that’s powerful
Honest and immediate. Great first line.
Skinny Jeans Mum