I wore my a-line flowered burgundy dress,
the one that garners attention
whether I’m seeking it or not
to Stepdad’s family event.
The dress attracted a tall boy in the late summer
like a firefly to a lamp, and I felt excited and nervous
when he asked me to go outside and talk.
“Who gave you this ring, your boyfriend?” he said.
“No, my dad,” I blushed.
“Are you old enough to date?” he asked,
and I let him hold my hand
as I said, “I’ll be fifteen this fall.”
He asked to be my boyfriend
even though we live thirty minutes apart
even though I only knew him for ten minutes
and even though fear rose high in my throat
I said yes.
When Mommy and I played harp and flute
at the nursing home where he worked
he and I sat side by side afterward,
and he looked at my chest and pretended to listen.
But I was no Jessica to his Roger Rabbit.
I’m not as beautiful as he thinks.
In December he called and said he loved me,
and I sputtered a goodbye,
then went to Mommy for advice.
She said, “Boys’ motors run faster than girls.’”
But she didn’t explain.
Sometimes we gave him a ride home after our performances
and he grasped my hand in the dark,
flustering me terribly as he kissed my fingers.
In the spring he shocked me
as we sat with family at a school play
in a room where anyone could see.
He tried something strange
and I was a spirit detached from a body
watching above in disbelief,
thinking, “If this is how a motor runs
I’ll ride a bicycle alone forever.”
But he’d already asked me to prom
and the plans had been set in motion
and I couldn’t say no
when he came with us to another wedding.
He insisted we go outside, just us two.
I talked and talked, higher and faster
as he drew me closer and tighter.
Suddenly he turned my chin to face him
and I pushed him away with both hands
not ready at all.
On the ride back to his house
I felt the length of his body pressed against mine
in the crowded back seat
and as I felt him drawing away from me
I felt relieved, yet worried
how prom would unfold the following week.
Our first date without family around
and he gave one-word answers
and wouldn’t look at me
and abandoned me to dance with his friends
thrashing wildly to Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy,”
not a danceable song but a painful cry.
He spun out of control
like a vehicle careening down a hill
ending in a crash
from which I walked away
telling no one.