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The band room.

       In the back, behind the tubas, where it smells of brass oil and spit, where no one will ever find us. 

       I peel off my wet shawl. 

       He asks if I’m sure. 

       He says we don’t have to.

       He says a lot of things my brain can’t hold onto, his words slipping through my mind as though covered in baby oil.

       He says he’s never done this before.        

       I say nothing.

       And then my shawl is on the floor, my skin covered in goosebumps rigid as a sea star. 

       Travis is the first person to see me naked, and when he steps back to look at me, I cover myself. 

       He pulls at my elbows. 

       I’m going to vomit. Maybe from the joint. Maybe not. 

       My breathing grows heavy and fast, echoing from the bells of the tubas.

       Travis moves his hand from my elbow, and I stay like a well-trained dog as he touches my chest, right in the center. 

       I’m no Playboy cover model. No hippie goddess. I can’t swallow. My mouth is dry, like his kisses have sucked all the moisture from my body. My lips are pressed together, glued forever shut.

       “Wow,” he says.


       And suddenly I can breathe again, swallow again. 

       When his palm slides over my breast, I am sea grass, idle and limp.

       But I’m scared, and I think he knows it.

       He tells me we can stop and just go back to the dance.

       I want to say, Yes. But I shake my head no.


I never thought it would be like this. Not here, on the floor of the high school band room. Not with Travis Misker dropping a real policeman’s cap to the ground. Unbuckling his pants. Not kissing me anymore. Not looking at me anymore.

       Look at me.

       Don’t look at me.

       I’m on the floor beside the French horns. The carpet is sticky and rigid, and my clothes are in a pile by the music stands. All of them. 

       I lie on my back and wait. 

       Push my legs flat to the floor, squeeze my knees together. And wait. 

       I look to the ceiling, and the exposed piping with chipped paint next to a small yellow window leaking light like twinkling breadcrumbs into the East wing. 

       Travis crouches on the floor beside me, naked, his penis hidden beneath the arc of his body like a secret he won’t share. I have no such secrets. 

       When his hands grip my legs, I close my eyes.

       When he pulls my knees apart, then my ankles, I’m grateful for the shadows.

       His abdomen pushes against the underside of my thighs, and I suck in my breath, hold it, like a hit off a joint.

       “Are you ready?” His voice is small and uncertain. 




       “Please talk to me. Do you want to stop?”


       “Are you sure?”

       I can’t say it. Too scared to say it. 

       “Do you still want to do this?”

       I open my eyes because it’s all I can do, but I can’t look at Travis Misker. I look to the window above us, to lighting plunging like an avalanche across the sky.  

       When I finally say, Yes, I expect more hesitation, more conversation. But what I receive is immediate pain.

       A sharp, rigid wound explodes from the softest part of my body. This is not lovemaking. This is not romance atop an abandoned lighthouse. And all I want to do is scream.

       My fingers claw at a carpet too dense to grasp. My heels seek ground, but they’re trapped beneath his body.

       I grimace, gnashing my teeth against the pain, and turn my face to the side so he won’t see the saliva foaming from my lips like a mouthful of rabies.

       I’m deformed.

       Practically a monster. 

       Travis rocks into me, over and over, his face turning red, then purple. I’ve never seen Travis’s eyes like this before. His mouth is different too. This person is a stranger.

       I wrap my arms around my face, burying my nose in the crook of my elbow so I don’t have to watch. 

       I can’t breathe, but I don’t care. 

       Please stop. 

       I don’t want to do this anymore. 

       I’ve changed my mind! 

       But I say nothing.

       I want to hit someone. 

       Run away. 

       Rip off my skin.

       But I can’t stop it.

       So I disappear.

       In my mind, I’m on the hippie beach, spiraling into the surf. I feel the waves, the wind. Beside me, the blonde in the crocheted bikini hugs my shoulders and tells me everything is going to be okay. The shells braided through her hair sway and clack in the wind.

       It’s not until Travis wheezes into my face and falls atop me that I realize the pain has subsided. I am raw, cut open, but the violence of it has grown numb.

       A flash of lightning fills the skylight, reminding me of the moment the sun disappears below the horizon—that bright green flash I’ve never seen. A lie. A grand falsehood fabricated by my father.

       A crack of thunder soon follows, and I think of speeding down the Seven Mile Bridge so close to the other cars that the mirrors click as they pass, a mere inch from collision, from plummeting into the ocean. Unlucky.

       And as the thunder fades away, a reverberation is left behind, filling the band room. All around us, the instruments begin to ring and hum like wine glasses stroked by wet fingers. As though in the sudden absence of sound, they have begun to panic.

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