Jay wasn’t a distraction at all. I wasn’t able to see him through the classroom door if I bent to the right angle. He didn’t pretend he didn’t see me. I didn’t sit up straight pushing my chest forward. He didn’t have thick black hair that shone blue despite the florescent lights.
We didn’t share roll-your-own cigarettes out at the edge of the school yard. His parents didn’t drink. We didn’t kiss near the baseball diamond. I didn’t press a pillow to my ears to drown out my parents’ violence at night. He didn’t push his hand up under my purple tie-dyed T-shirt. I didn’t let him. His smile didn’t work its way through the dusty back window of his school bus. I didn’t think of him as mine vibrated its way home over the washboard gravel road.
My friend’s eyes didn’t go liquid when my cousin came over on Saturday night. My cousin didn’t drive us to his buddy Henry’s house. Henry didn’t kiss me. I didn’t hesitate before pulling away from his soft vodka-slick lips. Jay didn’t just then swagger beer-drunk down the stairs. He didn’t punch Henry’s perfect nose.
We didn’t all end up at Jay’s one-bedroom house. He didn’t drop onto the couch. I didn’t squeeze in beside him, didn’t rub his rough bloody knuckles to stop him cracking them, didn’t cup his jerking cheek to loosen his grinding teeth, didn’t light a cigarette and slip the damp tip between his lips.
It didn’t happen on a winter night so cold that hot water chucked into the air would rain down as ice pellets. I wasn’t stuck there when my cousin’s car battery died. Everyone else wasn’t making out in the living room. Jay’s parents weren’t passed out dead-drunk on one of the two beds in the only bedroom. We weren’t in the other bed. I didn’t hear his parent’s snores. He wasn’t thirteen. He didn’t forget to ask me. I wasn’t twelve, wasn’t scared to tell him he had the wrong hole at first, wasn’t scared to say no before he found the right one.
It wasn’t all inevitable. His eyes didn’t slither to the floor when we met in the hallway at school the following week, his back-of-the-lunchroom whispers weren’t painting blushes on another girl’s cheeks the week after that, I didn’t worry about anything, didn’t fear telling anyone my period hadn’t come, didn’t wait too long.
“Grinding Teeth” first appeared in Spelk Fiction, 2019.
IMAGE: Rene Magritte “Memory”, 1948. Oil on canvas. 59 x 49 cm. René Magritte Museum, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels
Louella Lester is a writer and amateur photographer in Winnipeg, Canada. Her work has appeared in Grey Sparrow Journal, New Flash Fiction, Spelk, Reflex Fiction, Vallum, Prairie Fire, The Antigonish Review, CBC News Manitoba Online, and in the following anthologies: Gush: menstrual manifestos for our times, (Frontenac House, 2018), A Girl’s Guide to Fly Fishing (Reflex Press, 2020), Wrong Way Go Back, (Pure Slush, 2020). Her Flash-CNF book, Glass Bricks (At Bay Press, April 2021) is available at: https://atbaypress.com/books/
Photo Credit: Heather Stuart
Intense, Louella, and good.
I didn’t read it all in one continuous gallop, beginning to end.
And I did just say thank you. ?