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.