Shaving in the car because my Mom said my 15-year-old beard was sporadic and mangy. A car filled with teenage girls laughed at me and the electric razor as we passed at an intersection.
Seeing you for the first time with your Jet black hair and thinking I saw a streak of lighting pass through your summer green eyes. A flash I didn’t understand but now know as recognition.
You, confidently wearing a tight, kelly green t-shirt while I slumped self-consciously in my army green thermal with sleeves that ended at my thumbs. It would be so many years before I knew that clothes could hug my softness.
Being shown our room (two twin beds in the back of a house somewhere in Orange County, California) by a host family whose son was supposed to join us but was working late.
Being on our own. You turned to me and you saw it all. Friendship inevitable, you asked what musicals I liked. I probably said Ragtime. You asked what musicals I didn’t like. I definitely said Phantom of the Opera.
Not much else until it happened the next night. You, 18. Me, 15. Both of us only pretending to sleep 2 feet away from another boy’s warm body in a secluded back room at a musical theatre show choir camp. Bound by cliché.
Days later a mother describing the difficulty of finding boarding for all the students in the choir “because we obviously couldn’t room boys and girls together.” She thanked me for being so comfortable with sharing my room. I smiled thinking about the stillness between us in the moments before it happened. Simple questions met with leading answers. Thinking, “ask me something else, please ask me something else.”
In soundless courage I asked, “Are you ticklish?”
Your answer lit a match at the end of dynamite. You had been waiting for the sign and no matter what happened, I wasn’t turning back. The blood left my head as your arm reached across the space between the beds…
You slid your fingers under my blanket and moved your hand to my chest. Simple and inevitable. You had done this before. You were my guide and I was eager to apprentice.
You were kind. You didn't ask if I was gay, you just gently leaned over me and calmly asked “may I kiss you?”
My choked response: “I have to take out my retainer.”
Our lips meeting and instantly learning that the sensation of flying wasn’t reserved for the birds and the bugs and the pilots and the superheroes.
Spending the next day at rehearsal thinking about you and making eyes at you and not stopping smiles at the thought of you and your ass in tight black jazz pants.
Both of us being approached by different girls who wanted to date us for the 5-day-long program.
Agreeing and loving our secret.
Going to the mall as a group and making out with the girls in a car parked at the top of a cement structure while we bumped back and forth past each other.
Learning that her flavor would never let me leave the ground.
Leading her on because the longer I lasted the less questions people would ask about you and me.
The phone call a week later when she asked to be in a long distance relationship and I blurted out that I was with you.
My heart breaking only to realize it was a crustacean merely shedding its armored shell.
You pushing me hard onto the twin bed and kissing me with freshly sipped lemonade on your tongue. At 15, I was only afraid of sending unwanted flavors through kisses, I didn’t realize you could send cold, wet, delicious ones too. We shared the lemonade so that you could taste it on me and I remember thinking that the ghost kiss I received when putting my lips on your can was nearly as good as the real thing.
I didn’t wear my retainer for the rest of the week.
Holding hands while walking up the stairs after our performance and dropping the finger lock just before meeting our fathers who had come to pick us up.
Promising each other that we would keep it going; hopeful and confident and grateful.
The emails you sent me with pixelated jpegs of yourself and small updates about school and shows. I melted with every word, feeling like I finally belonged to someone safe.
The nude you sent me; laying face down revealing the curve of your ass. I remember thanking you for being my first and telling you how much you meant to me.
My mother standing engulfed in flame outside the choir room and telling me to get into the car before the end of the school day and telling me that she had been tracking all of my emails for years and that she found the curve of your ass and that she was going to file statutory rape because you were 18 and how dare I because I was too young to understand and how dare I because she didn’t even know who you were and how dare I because she couldn’t do this anymore and how dare I because now she had to get my father involved.
Her outing me to my father in a wild rage of showmanship (my father HAD to talk to me about it HAD to tell me he didn’t believe me HAD to say it was just a phase).
My first symphony being turned into chaos. I had to sit there while she probed, diminished and ripped at our experience that was nothing but gentle and playful and kind. She taught me that kindness and intimacy and appreciation should be met with shame, terror, pain. Taught me that any sex, even the sweetest and most caring was akin to rape. That gay sex was a violent act. That gay sex was a crime. She taught me this. Not the men who would actually hurt and sometimes take what wasn’t theirs.
You reached over the 2 feet of darkness to where I was laying, in awe of you. When your palm met my navel, you squeezed the softness around my middle and told me how much you liked it. No other lover has decidedly taken fist fulls of the parts of my anatomy that make me wand to hide and I’m realizing now that it might not be because they didn’t want to but because I wouldn’t let them.
Ending my relationship with you. They told me what to say. Told me how to say it. You were too old. I was too young to know what else to do.
You are still the freest I have ever been. I dream about lemonade
and I remember.