It happened when I was fifteen. All of a sudden I was hot. It came out of nowhere. One minute I was invisible and the next boys were feeling me up behind the stairs. They always say, don’t let strangers touch you, but they weren’t strangers. They were sophomores. Their names were Alan, Billy, Steve. They wore braces. Mullets. They said, let’s get this party started. After awhile they said nothing. They just did a little thing, like their legs were walking, which was code, for stairwell. We went. Usually there was a lot of tongue involved. Then the hands would start. They went up the shirt. Down the shirt. They paused at the pants and then they went there, too. They hung out. They said, hello, like we are giving you the pleasure of your life. It always stopped there, strangely. It’s like they read a book up to a certain point, and then Mom came in. After that things were formal. We sat there like nuns, or teachers. It was all very chivalrous, really. He would hold the door for me and we would go into whatever happened next, chemistry class, maybe, or the yard. Then he would ignore me and I would ignore him, or pretend to, I did what my dad does, I’d say, time does not exist except for at this moment. I looked around and murdered time. Then I took the bus.
By 11th grade we just looked at each other. It was like a formality, like a favorite TV show you can’t give up, even though it’s in the 7th season and all the main characters have died. It was as if he’d forgotten how to feel. He was lost. He was thinking about algebra or how our teacher looked like Humpty Dumpty. It interfered with things, like sex. He put his hand over my blouse and we just sat there. And in the end he gave me this look, like don’t tell Steve or Billy. I nodded. It would be our secret. It was a bond. I told myself this. It smelled like M&M’s and menthols, like x=y2. He was the x and I the y, or he the y, it didn’t matter—we equaled out. My mother looked at me. She said, there’s something different about you, and I nodded. I was a woman now. I knew how to keep men’s secrets.
Leonora Desar’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in CHEAP POP, River Styx, Passages North, Black Warrior Review Online, Mid-American Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Hobart, and Quarter After Eight, among others. She won third place in River Styx’s microfiction contest, and was a runner-up/finalist in Quarter After Eight’s Robert J. DeMott Short Prose contest, judged by Stuart Dybek. She was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions 2019, and Best Microfiction 2018.