Sixteen, baby blue nail polish with a sparkly topcoat. Summer in Tucson. French class at 11 and nothing to do otherwise. My parents gone to La Jolla and left me with little money, and a single pot. I survived on foods I’d never cooked before. To be honest I’d never cooked anything before.
I lived on pasta covered in tomato soup. Mushroom soup. Lentil soup. And whatever was cheap at Louis’ Lower Level.
My roommate was a roller skater who looked and sounded like a possessed child’s doll. She liked to keep the door locked so she could have sex with with the Chinese kid in our gifted program.
But I liked to change clothes on a whim. Like I was changing costumes. So I accumulated a lot of clothes on the floor.
The men who stayed in college dorms in 1996 were broken or forgotten or from out of state. And even without knowing how to make dinner, I knew how to wrap them around my fingers. They smelled of pot and cigarettes and tasted of sweat. Their innocence annoyed me. I was revving at 5000 RPMs in second gear and they didn’t know how to use the clutch and upshift.
Was it the 16-year old thing? The fact that I looked and acted 21? The fact that I dared them not to try? The fact that I had no idea what I was asking for?
The half-Korean/half-Irish guy named Corey, with the purple mini-truck, let me do whatever I wanted. Taco Bell. Horchata. Cigarettes. Sort of sex. We’d stay up all night, lips used in prayer, extolling R.E.M. and U2, lips used in sin, extolling me and only me.
I never had to worry that they’d push too far. The thing I’d learn years later was that I had the power of an ice queen. And only they who persisted, who dared to gain entry, who broke through walls and melted my defenses, like knights on a holy mission, slaying dragons, made it through to the sticking place.
I wonder about those boys: the tender ones whose words and smiles captivated me. I wound them like flaxen locks around my forefinger. They never tried. They never dared. They could have bought me with their words, but they didn’t know their words had the currency to melt me to the core, and make me burn in unholy places.
Life doesn’t change. I’m 40 minus a month and I still find these curly-haired, tender boys every so often. I sometimes wonder what would happen if I let them in. If I wasn’t hidden behind the ice queen edifice whom I chose as my drag act long ago before I knew what consequences were.
Would they let me twist their curls around my forefinger as I lay my head on their chests and stayed awake to the beating of their hearts? Or is it time to pay the price for having shunned so many of them for so many years, in favor of close-cropped, bold knights whose armor hid cruel secrets?
I don’t know the answer, but my fingers do love the feel of curly locks. And summer is about to commence.