When the Fort Walls Fall

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He kissed me in the fort I’d built with friends in the woods at the dead-end of my sloping street. We stood, sheltered in branches and leaves, as he rested his hands on my suggestion of hips and leaned forward to really, truly kiss me, his tongue touching mine. No lips quickly brushed and mouths swiftly parting. This was a long kiss, leaving my lips chapped and slightly swollen. We held hands as we walked to the Main Street stairs and descended the 157 steps to downtown. In the pool hall, a place I’d never been before, and now, never since, he bummed a cigarette from a guy sighting a red ball with white stripe. We smoked it in the alley, me taking tentative puffs, trying to hold in the cough my unfamiliar lungs were forcing upwards. He gave me a necklace, gold chain with a blue stone swinging. My mother said it looked expensive and made me return it to him as he stood in my front yard, her on the porch, scolding. Someone had called, motivated by It Takes a Village impulse. I wasn’t yet 16, or 15, or even 14. While I was grounded, sitting on the floor in my bedroom picking at the gold shag, I considered which offense had landed me in the room for a week: the kiss, the pool hall, the cigarette, or being born a girl?

October 2013
Julie Ayers

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