Aggregate Anemones, Vancover Island, BC. Photo by Bev Dulis

By Giovanna Coppola

dear ryan,

thank you for being the first boy that hugged me. thank you for not kissing me when i was sixteen. thank you for not kissing me while i was drunk and in a different country. thank you for thinking you could be my friend, even though we never did become friends.

thank you for reading my drunken letter that i left in front of your hotel door that night comparing the evening to dorothy parker and her friends at the algonquin. maybe my youngness didn’t inspire a sexuality at the time, maybe my fire was not warming my belly and breasts. maybe i didn’t know what my body could get me to do.

but it was more than nice for you to walk with me in the london night, holding my hand as i told you about how kissing and bodies seemed so fake to me, how i wanted to slice open the lungs and watch them open and close, that some body needed to see my breath before i could open. i remember how warm your hand felt, how i liked the intimacy of your squeeze when i told you i placed flowers on your mother’s grave. o yes, and how your arms folded around me when i came up to you in the club and hugged you around your waist, calling you a casanova for kissing all the girls on the trip. so warm, i let myself press against you, saying over and over to myself how it was the first time.

you were the first person that i looked at paintings and books with. i liked how we wandered in the same room at the national gallery, but never stood shoulder to shoulder. i liked the way i stood alone, feeling the air cool around me, knowing your mind was on a painting in the other corner.

it was nice to eat lunch together the next day. just me and you, intimate without expectations. i pretended to be grown up. the real me that’s writing this now was somewhere inside then, drinking sparkling water as the italian waiter brought us pizza, stalling our conversation about our dead parents.

i felt warm, i felt okay, i felt like i was living inside of a book. you were my big crush and i didn’t want to kiss you because i didn’t want to be like your other girls. i talked about not being able to see london, about wanting to find its smell. it felt like you understood.

and then i found myself in your room that last night in london. it was a full moon and i had been watching some of our classmates get drunk and kiss older men with receding hairlines in the lobby. there was no where for me to sleep because my roommates had each brought a man into our room. i crawled into the armoire in your room to sleep out of the way because i was embarrassed. because i was unwanted. i watched another girl come into your room and sleep on the cot. at four a.m., when you thought me and your roommates were asleep, you crawled into bed with her and i watched you lay your body on top of her. i closed my eyes into slits and turned my head, but i heard your kissing.

the sounds didn’t mean anything. the girl didn’t mean anything. you would never see her again. nothing meant anything, except that an hour later when the sky started to lighten and a pale navy blue filled the room, i saw it and smelled it. i had felt what london was. and my body hurt for being in an absurd position, sleeping in a cedar armoire.

i never told you that i had hated you before i had loved you. it was the year that both of our parents had died. i knew you as a face and i knew that your mother was dying from liver cancer, the same as my father. i hated you because she died before papa did, and i didn’t want to look at you. i didn’t want to know what you knew. you were a hospital bed, you were blue blood, you were the sounds of throwing up after dinner. you were hair that turns white before it falls out, you were the moans of pain, you were the morphine patch placed on the rib. i hated you as i fell apart during english class, telling mr. wells that papa was going to die.

i never told you how i first loved you, turning around in spanish class to hand you back a paper. our eyes had met and you wouldn’t look away and i wouldn’t look away. it felt like minutes and minutes. my body felt warm. i wonder what my dark skin looked like to you, my frizzy hair, my glasses and big nose. my rainbow stockings and terry cloth skirt and knee length boots.

i’m happy we never kissed. thank you for not making me feel like a body. thank you for not being my friend. thank you thank you thank you. because i didn’t know what a body was, what a body felt like. my spirit was too raw and the scent of a dead body was too new. it would take me more years before i could kiss a body, before i could love a body, before i could connect the two.

it was on a sunday that i found your mother’s grave. it was spring. behind papa’s grave was a green field where the geese liked to graze. sometimes it would take awhile for the caretaker to mow so the field would fill with thousands and thousands of dandelions. i liked to run and leap through them, not caring about the bees, knowing they wouldn’t hurt me. i had a hat on that day and i took it off and filled it with the dandelions.

i knew your mother was buried nearby, so that sunday i wandered through the stones looking for her name. when i found her i started to cry a little. i didn’t know that she died on her birthday. i took some flowers out of my hat and put them quickly on her stone. i ran off because i was embarrassed. it was funny admitting my crush to your mother.

maybe i will see you again. i would like to see your paintings, but not for years later. this is what i will look like when you see me again. i will be orange and dark. i will have orange high heel shoes, orange stockings, an orange ballerina skirt that swirls and twirls and an orange sequin bustier with a green shimmering parrot on it. and my hair will be short and frizzy, out beyond my shoulders and i will have an orange scarf tied around my head. i will be beautiful. i will smell good. i will smile and laugh and twirl.

and you will want to kiss me, but you will know that you can’t. and i will put my arm through your arm and say in a warm voice like hot apple pie and vanilla ice cream and ask you to dance and you will put your arms around me and we will hug.

love love love

  Horoscopes | Search | Index | Contents