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)