We Eat an Apple In My Bed
We’ve been kissing for months. Three times a week our toothbrushes share a chipped porcelain mug in my bathroom. As my lips reach for the juice falling from her laugh, her mom calls. I listen as she talks about Biology, her new job, asks about her sister. Her eyes drop as she whispers, No, I still don’t have a boyfriend.
On cue, I stop chewing. She looks at me, waiting for my face to flush, for me to tear from the bed, but I won’t get mad at her. She shouldn’t have to explain why we can’t go swimming in public, why I don’t own a razor, why she doesn’t need to buy birth control. She hangs up the phone; I pick up the fruit, tell her Apparently, there’s a tiny amount of cyanide in apple seeds.
She shrugs, says she can handle a little danger, but I’ve studied how her dimples disappear when she lies, and I know she’s thinking about a man she could parade around her family, who could kiss her scratchy with stubble. The kind of man I’ll never be.
She squeezes my hand in the movie theater dark but tosses it to the side in front of her friends. Says she just needs time. She walks on the sidewalk. I walk in the street. She closes the door. I kiss it goodnight. She goes home for Thanksgiving. I promise not to call.
If I were a postcard, she could hide me in her pocket. If I were clay, she could mold my body into something easier to love. If I were the guy who sells her a cup of coffee every morning. I could smile at her anonymously, safe as a stranger.
She kisses down my neck, my peel hiding the rotten fruit inside me. As I tell her about the cyanide, her head resting on my chest, she talks about cider, autumn pies. See, she says, Apples are harmless. But she saves the last bites for me, scared to let her lips wander too close to the core.
(From my new book, What the Night Demands, available HERE)
Unsolicited Advice to Adolescent Girls With Crooked Teeth and Pink Hair by Jeanann Verlee
When your mother hits you, do not strike back. When the boys call asking your cup size, say A, hang up. When he says you give him blue balls, say you’re welcome. When a girl with thick black curls who smells like bubble gum stops you in a stairwell to ask if you’re a boy, explain that you keep your hair short so she won’t have anything to grab when you head-butt her. Then head-butt her. When a guidance counselor teases you for handed-down jeans, do not turn red. When you have sex for the second time and there is no condom, do not convince yourself that screwing between layers of underwear will soak up the semen. When your geometry teacher posts a banner reading: “Learn math or go home and learn how to be a Momma,” do not take your first feminist stand by leaving the classroom. When the boy you have a crush on is sent to detention, go home. When your mother hits you, do not strike back. When the boy with the blue mohawk swallows your heart and opens his wrists, hide the knives, bleach the bathtub, pour out the vodka. Every time. When the skinhead girls jump you in the bathroom stall, swing, curse, kick, do not turn red. When a boy you think you love delivers the first black eye, use a screw driver, a beer bottle, your two good hands. When your father locks the door, break the window. When a college professor writes you poetry and whispers about your tight little ass, do not take it as a compliment, do not wait, call the Dean, call his wife. When a boy with good manners and a thirst for Budweiser proposes, say no. When your mother hits you, do not strike back. When the boys tell you how good you smell, do not doubt them, do not turn red. When your brother tells you he is gay, pretend you already know. When the girl on the subway curses you because your tee shirt reads: “I fucked your boyfriend,” assure her that it is not true. When your dog pees the rug, kiss her, apologize for being late. When he refuses to stay the night because you lived in Jersey City, do not move. When he refuses to stay the night because you live in Harlem, do not move. When he refuses to stay the night because your air conditioner is broken, leave him. When he refuses to keep a toothbrush at your apartment, leave him. When you find the toothbrush you keep at his apartment hidden in the closet, leave him. Do not regret this. Do not turn red. When your mother hits you, do not strike back.