Impressing the posters on my bedroom wall
With my first gay kiss
When I was twelve, I had posters of my favourite bands and singers on my wall that I was convinced could see me. Not only did I not find this creepy, but I realised at some point that I was performing for them, the same way they had performed for me on MTV and VH1. I was ecstatic when I sang at the top of my lungs and wiggled my chubby body so freely to the slow jams I recorded on tape from the radio. Fully knowing what they were saying, definitely not knowing I shouldn’t have known at all.
So when my new friend started coming over, I was thrilled to show her off to The Spice Girls, TLC, and *NSYNC. I had already taken down the posters of The Backstreet Boys after feeling like they definitely wouldn’t like my changing body, and the vibe felt much freer after tearing them down and burning the pieces in an ashtray I stole from my mom. I didn’t want to worry about my choices in my own bedroom, not like I worried out there at school and in the neighbourhood, so I replaced them with posters of The Cranberries. And they seemed to fit me much better.
My new friend Clementine has sunshine-yellow hair, big blue glassy eyes, and these soft lips. They are big and full, and always pink. Pink when she calls at my house in the morning so we can walk part of the way to school together — because we don’t go to the same one — pink after she eats lunch, and especially pink when we kiss.
She’s usually dirty from playing, and never not smiling.
She’s also black and blue from bruises because she’s a tomboy, as she likes to put it, and I overheard some other girls up the street talking the other day about how she could be a model if she stopped fighting all the time. Nobody ever said things like that about people who look like me, and you know, it never mattered because everybody seemed to say the same thing about the same people over and over again as if we all had to be copies, and I wanted to be different. I already felt like I was.
At school, my best friend never talked to me about girls she liked, so I assumed she didn’t like them. I didn’t talk about the girls I liked because nobody ever asked me. But Clementine had come over to my house every day this week, and she was all I could think about. She liked to wear those t-shirts with no sleeves on them; the lurid colouring of her bruises made her arms look like iridescent wings. And she was so angry all the time, at everyone but me. She was silly and blunt, and I wanted to show The Spice Girls how much we liked each other, obviously.
“Do you ever think about what it’s like to kiss a boy?”
“Yeah, I think it would be… hot, like to the touch.”
“What would we feel like?”
“I don’t know.”
I remember she tasted a little like she’d been eating onions, and I hate onions! But as I was becoming very aware of my own face and my own mouth in a way that I never had been before, she put her arms on my shoulders and pulled me closer still. I thought about how much smaller my mouth was than hers, and wondered if she thought it was weird. I thought about our bodies and the way we had twisted our legs together, we were somehow almost on top of each other now. It was so uncomfortable. My legs tingled the way my lips were beginning to tingle. She was shining bright enough for the sunbeams to touch me on the tops of my cheeks, and the light penetrated all the way down to my chest. She made me hot, she made me hungry.
“Do you want to put your tongue in my mouth?”
We lay on our backs on the floor, baby it’s yours, all yours playing on my green boombox. I felt proud looking up at my posters now. My watching walls no longer a secret, the boldness they infused me with on full display. Something like hope made my insides swirl. I was wearing a dress, an unusual thing for me, and it had gotten all twisted up from our kissing. I put my hands on my tummy and held it as I breathed in and out: this was a place of soft comfort for me. I looked over at her and she started laughing. Tomorrow. We’ll be using our tongues tomorrow! How was I going to learn how to do that before then?!