At eleven years old,

I didn’t know what to make of                                       

couples kissing in public,

the mushy expression of a man 

when looking in a woman’s eyes,

the gooey way she responded.

I’d be with my mother,

standing in a checkout line

or eating in a fast food restaurant. 

When I stopped to stare,

she’d admonish me with,

“Don’t do that. It’s rude.”

It didn’t feel rude to me.

More like something I needed 

to learn, to absorb,

like I once did with colors,

or the alphabet or arithmetic.

These women prepared their hair,

their cheeks, their lips, a certain way.

The men were all clean-shaven.

And they both reeked of perfume,

hers always sweet,

his often a raw, invigorating musk.

At least, at the movies, 

my older sister couldn’t shame me

when I gawked at lovers 

making out on the giant screen.

She was equally as goggle-eyed.

What led up to it was foreign territory.

But the act itself was mesmerizing 

and it was replicated amateurishly 

in various seats

in front of me and behind. 

On the way home in the bus,

I tried to imagine the feel 

of lips touching mine so passionately

while my sister flirted 

with the usual crowd of teenage boys.

And I slept with that embrace.

My dreams ingested every tender smack

of mouth on mouth. 

It was with me during playtime.

Even in the schoolroom

though the teacher didn’t fill the role

of puckering starlet 

and nor did any of my freckly metal-mouthed girl classmates.

When I fought the war

in the back yard 

with sticks and plastic weapons,

it was no longer enough to win the battle.

I wanted to be rewarded.

A fake medal was one thing.

But I needed something to go on with.