by Lelonnie Taylor
(an excerpt) This is the first story in my creative non-fiction anthology, “Child Who Hurt You?” The full story will be released on my blog, this Christmas.
I saw the back of his head and fell in love.
It was the only thing I could see when I cocked mine over my shoulder after hearing a collective “OH SHIT!” followed by the instigative chatter surrounding a fight.
It had to be around 11:45 a.m.; lunchtime at Trevor G. Browne High School was typically rowdy–with gang fights, spirit rallies, and the bustle of young gossip.
It was partly cloudy, but the sun shined a blinding pastel yellow. In its ray his hair was coffee: silky, black, with reddish amber highlights revealed when cast in the right angle. Tied in a low ponytail, it poured past his shoulders in soft S’s stopping half-way down his lanky, 5-foot-4 frame.
His skin was lit tobacco: spotted mahogany with a soft glow, dressed in a white tall tee, and silver Starter basketball shorts, to be acquired by me the summer before junior year.
I elbowed through the thick crowd of bystanders and yank his ponytail.
“Can I fucking help you?!”
“I don’t need help with anything, but YOU can walk me to class.”
He slowly grinned, took my hand and we made our way to Algebra 1.
The only thing anyone could see for the rest of the school day was my teeth.
After the final bell, I meandered with the rest of the herd to the bus station at the mall two blocks from campus. I was looking to kill time since it was early-release, and my mom didn’t pick me up til at least 4:30.
I was looking for that boy.
I spotted him at a stop, perched atop the back of a bench, with his mane spilling wildly behind him. Wafts of smoke danced in similar S-shapes like a headdress. Or maybe a halo. The lids of his blood-shot almond-eyes sank lower as I turned my nose up to whiff.
The air was hot and bitter. It wreaked a pungent, yet sweet earthy smell of distant memory. A scent that used to pique my devious curiosity when accompanied by my parents’ discretion,
“Ya shouldn’t be meddling ’round here.”
I probably should.
I’d never been high before, and I wasn’t then–just dizzy and spellbound with intrigue. I sauntered over to him, watching the slender cigar disappear with each hand to mouth pull.
I stared at his lips, and our eyes met after he blew ash to the right of my shoes.
Face to face, we stared at each other for what seemed like five minutes. Finally, he placed his left hand on my right knee through the rip in my blue jeans.
My gaze remained locked, even though my stomach had sunk to my ankles and I could feel streams of sweat trailing down the nape of my neck.
He slid his hand upward ever so slightly, and I felt all of the hairs on my body stand at attention. I look down, then up and stammer.
“S-stupid people smoke weed,”
He smiled like he did earlier as he flicked the end of the blunt somewhere past me.
I lost my breath, unsure of how to keep this going. I was used to being merely a tease, though my reputation was quite the contrary, thanks to rumor. It was like he was calling a bluff. Though I hadn’t seen him a day before then, I was frantic pondering what he could’ve possibly heard about me.
My face was on fire, and if my complexion allowed, I would’ve looked like a stewed tomato.
“Take my number. Text me, or call me.”
We exchanged cell phones, and contact info.
Dee. I wondered what it stood for? Daniel, Devon…Dimitri?
Dantrelle. Dantrelle D’Antony Lewis.
A white and purple bus emblazoned with the words Valley Metro pulled up to the stop, coughing and hissing violently.
“Where ya goin’?”
“Over to 67th, to my cousins’.”
“I can’t–I’m not sure what time my mom’s coming and I have to be back at the school.”
“Ok sweetie, call me.”
I watched him stride past, with his hair trailing rhythmically. I waited for the bus to pull off, I picturing his lips again and biting mine.
They were kinda pouty, a delicate rosy pink. His smile was wide set with surprisingly pearly teeth, given the fact that he’s a smoker. The bottom row was kinda crooked, but well-composed, a happy accident.
I imagined kissing him. Sigh.
The hot air from the exhaust slapped me across my left cheek, bringing me back to reality before my wandering mind could dream what would happen next.
I’M A VIRGIN…
Sure, I’d made out with a few guys and had enough second-hand encounters from my friends and CineMax to maintain my scandalous facade… but I’d never actually done ANY of the things I’d talked about!
I started making my way back to campus, anticipating my mother’s arrival. My mind was going a mile a minute.
Oh God, would he know I was a fraud? Probably! He’s so pretty… he’s probably been with plenty of girls… Ughhhhhhhhh–he’d probably laugh in my face if he found out! Maybe I shouldn’t call him… I mean, he probably wants to do it, and if I call he’d think I want to do it?
Does fake it ‘til you make it apply to sex?
Am I even ready to have sex?
There was a great deal of tension and taboo regarding that word and me.
I had an acute knowledge of sexuality, romance, and attraction from a young age that was innate–though early exposure through childish mischief and excessive education steered me away from wanting to explore anything of the sort for a while. My father ran an adult superstore from the time I was six into my early adolescence, so he and my mother sat me down at the tender age of seven, and told me ALL about what goes where and whatnot.
However, I did get a bit curious the summer before I started high school. I agreed to let my cousin introduce me to a boy she went to school with at her promotion party. Shortly after hitting it off, we were locked in a closet and ratted out by our matchmaker. All I did was kiss the boy!
I cringe as I recall the consequential pain of my parents hearing of my “escapade.”
The sound of Dad’s wide cedar paddle cutting the air to meet the back of my thighs.
“YOU BETTER LEARN TO RESPECT YO’SELF!”
I was named “The Freshman Floozy” thanks to a few vengeful boys from various athletic teams whose advances were denied because I didn’t find their offerings impressive.
Although I was devastated by the false accusations of being a jezebel, I played along because I knew denial would be more incriminating. I couldn’t help but feel as if there was some validity to them by the way this boy had me all hot and bothered.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? Here I am contemplating giving it up to some guy I just met?!
How am I gonna do this, and NOT get caught…
Of course I called him.
Dee and I met on the day we got out for spring break, giving me a never-ending week only to drool over his Myspace pictures, and listen to his silky baritone voice over the phone until I saw him again at school.
Pssssh! What was so special about him anyway?
He never mentioned “doing it.”
I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, but instinctively, intuitively–I knew he had a gentle spirit. That was the soft glow which complimented his bad-boy essence. It only made sense once I spent the next three years getting closer to him.
* * *
“This is Hot Ass Arizona: there’s nothin’ to do here in the summer but stay inside, gettin’ high or gettin’ pregnant.”
It was a clear day in June, a bearable 105 in Phoenix. Located just behind Trevor Browne, it was quiet at Oso Park; school was out so all of our rowdier counterparts were crowding the local pool about three miles away.
A stretch of sallow yellow-greenish knolls lurched under us, as the shadow of a tree became our fortress. All limbs stretched, we recline and rest our heads on backpack pillows in the hot breeze. I rest my right temple in his collarbone, he tucks his chin into the slight dent in the crown of my head. Inhaling his classic scent of the red Axe Spray and original Swisher Sweets, and being lulled by the wheezy hum of his breath, I could’ve died in that moment.
We were doing nothing but it was everything–
Seldom things to this day have made me feel so fulfilled.
This is the kinda nothing that folks retire early for.
I felt myself drifting into a gentle sleep, wondering if this is the kind of thing that makes couples act so drunk and deranged.
Certainly. It’s been about two months, could we be considered a couple?
I mean, I sat at his lunch table every day he was there. He held my hand anywhere we went. A couple of times, I had to stop him from squarin’ up to a couple of boys–
“They were lookin’ at you too much.”
And he held me back from choking out a girl outside of Earth Science for tauntingly digging at me,
“Unnnh, you with HER??!”
“Go wax your mustache, bitch!”
Since I was an Honors student, I tutored him in English. Once I got through the spelling mistakes and excessive use of double negatives, his papers were quite touching.
He most often wrote about his family–my favorite was the story was the about him taking care of his nephew, Malakai. Sometimes he’d talk to me on the phone. Dee was stellar in algebra, and I wondered why he wasn’t in my class.
Despite all that, according to my mother, it was nothing. Mmmph, whateeever!
I wasn’t sixteen yet, so this wasn’t a date, and he wasn’t my boyfriend.
In order to get out me out of the house today he was “Jessica”, my pal and volleyball teammate I’d known since eighth grade.
I was sweetly awakened by the unlocking of our fingers and a kiss above my left eye. Dee was sitting up, picking blades of grass and flicking them every which way. We locked eyes. He rolled over and kissed my lips.
Ummmmm, is this what I think it is? WE’RE IN PUBLIC!!!
I mean, is anyone even watching?
I’m into it.
I go with it until the rationale of my girlish worry took hold.
“Hey, I gotta ask you something…”
“So, we hang out a lot and I like that. I-i like you. I was wondering…do you think we’re a couple? W-w-will you go out with me?”
Dee’s forehead scrunched so hard, he looked like he was part Shar Pei. At this point he was straddling me, disregarding how compromising it looked. He raised his hand and it playfully glided across my cheek.
WHAT THE SHIT IS THIS?!
Turning my head with the blow, I felt a tear sizzle down my cheek. Wilting into the half-dead grass, I swore to myself I knew it was too good to be true all along. Before the trembles of embarrassment took over my whole body, he grabbed me by the chin and squared my eyes. His chocolate-colored irises melted as he let out a disappointed sigh. I sniffled. He pecked my bottom lip…
“I like you too, but I don’t have girlfriends. Whenever I go out with a girl, we break up and never talk again.
We can be–
We’re best friends.”
He’s right, actually. The only other boyfriend I’d had dumped me on my first day of high school, and now we hated each other.
Dee dried my eyes with his thumb. We laid back down; this time he swaddled me in his arms and rested his chin on my shoulder.
“I thought you said no because we haven’t done it yet… I’m a virgin…”
I could feel his chin pivot in the nestle of my shoulder blade. He pecked my cheek.
“Hahaha, iss-okay. I know.”
I knew he loved me.
* * *
“Whatchu know about bein’ In LOOOOVE?
You’re too young to know what love is.
Ya think ya grown.”
My mom’s wisdom is befuddling, I swear. Sometimes, the things she said were so old-timey I’d think she was the grandma that raised her. But on the flip: before Dee, she was my best friend. I knew her secrets, and I didn’t keep too many from her. She found out about him through my rambling amidst a fever dream later that summer.
“Knock, knock. How’re you feelin’ dear?”
“Baby did you hang…up? No, no, I’m not sleep…”
She already knew something was up, so in my right mind I confessed. Telling her was like revealing final clues to a sleuth.
“So that’s Sex Hair?
In your Fave 5?
Have you had sex with this boy?”
Ugghhh! She loved watching Matlock when I was little.
“No…” Not yet.
I think about it though–I dunno. It’s hard sometimes.”
“I’m sure he is! Hahahaha.”
“Maaaaaahhhhh-mmmmmm! People make fun of me because I say ‘no’ all the time, and this time I don’t want to… is that wrong?”
“Well… as a Christian, you technically shouldn’t be thinkin’ bout sex ’til marriage.
what’s by the book isn’t what’s in your best interest.
I surely didn’t wait until I married your father,
although I at least waited til I graduated high school!”
She could tell that wasn’t what I wanted to hear by the way my mouth stuck out as I nodded silently.
“You must really like this boy.”
To my surprise, she did as much as I–
The only way I was allowed to keep spending time with Dee was if he came to meet my mother, and we were supervised. She said he won her over with the his manners, and how he sheepishly looked at me without turning his head as I vouched for him during lunch at our favorite Chinese buffet.
We’d moved out of Trevor Browne’s district, and knowing that I could see him on the weekends was enough to help me tough it out at a new school. We moved a lot Sophomore year.
Hearing his voice or reading his messages were enough to get me through shitty blizzard days staying with strangers in Oklahoma City. I sent him pictures of me sitting under mistletoe that Christmas and we smooched over speaker phone at midnight on New Years.
When we thought there was no chance of my return, we plotted the unthinkable.
“When you guys visit, you should let me get you pregnant, so you’d have to stay.
Me and Kai will take care of it.”
I’d get sent across the globe!
Thankfully I was back in Phoenix by the end of the school year, so we didn’t have to resort to extreme measures. And when he saw me the night I returned, at the roller rink, he bore the same look of relief as a kid seeing his parent pull up long after all the others had gone home.
* * *
Saturday, October 15, 2010
Through my half-opened blinds, a periwinkle luminescence cast shadows over my bare, shimmer dusted shoulders. After tuning my stereo to Art Leboe’s Midnight Oldies Show on 97.1, I stood in my mirrored closet doors ogling, as I peeled out of my black satin dress and lace tights.
In my reflection I locked eyes with Dee, who was sitting on the bed, watching admirably, unbuttoning his white dress shirt as I threw on one of his oversized tees.
I was sixteen, we were juniors.
It had been our first official date.
Dee was officially my boyfriend.
His mother saw him off from the driveway of their cute bubblegum pink house, when we picked him up around 3:30. We’d danced all night at Homecoming, after eating a candlelit dinner courtesy of my mom.
I belly-flopped onto the plush queen-sized mattress, adorned with microfiber sheets cool to the touch. Dee stretched backward onto me, so we looked like a plus sign.
We both giggled. This wasn’t our first sleep over, but it was relieving that we were finally legit. The way the stars looked twinkling on us matched the sparkling sensation arising in my stomach as we shifted around to lay side by side. Rolling onto me, Dee took my hands and placed his lips on mine.
I applied pressure.
“I love you.”
“I’m gonna marry you. You my wifey.”
“I love you too, I always have, I always will.”
I knew it. I’m ready.
From the top of my head, through every limb,
Electric currents surged through my veins
And sparks danced on my skin…
With my hair a mess and makeup smeared, I’d never felt more beautiful than I did then.
Glaring urgently, I pull the shirt over my head to unveil my mostly nude physique. With my comforter draped over his shoulders like a cape, Dee paused. Mouth slightly agape, and brow furrowed he scanned what laid before him like a sculpture clasping his hands to not seem too eager.
I writhed impatiently, urging him to speed things up before my conscience started talking.
Too fucking late!
As his hands and lips traced softly from my face,
The sparkles in my stomach started turning to stone.
I have a year left before I graduate…
But this is so perfect.
What would happen if I disappointed her?
Would she put me out?
What if I got pregnant?
I suddenly envisioned me at the steering wheel of my mom’s Leganza, about a week or so prior, struggling to back out of a Planned Parenthood parking lot because I forgot to take off the emergency brake.
She told me a couple of nights before that about a man she’d been seeing, and how neither of them foresaw being in each others’ lives long enough to raise a baby, nor did circumstances permit. I was as nervous then as I was about letting her take the wheel post-operation.
“Babe… I… can’t do this…
I’m too nervous about getting caught.”
Gripping my thighs, Dee looked up worriedly. Sitting with his knees at my sides, he put his hands on my shoulders.
“Lei. I. Love. YOU.”
As he leaned forward to kiss my forehead and lay by my side, my mother caught glimpse of our reflection in passing and assumed the worst.
“WHAT… are you two… DOING? YOU NEED TO CALM DOWN.
GO TO BED!”
* * *