A SUNDAY IN JUNE
She was not my first kiss. But if a cliché is the first thing that comes to mind, she is my cliché. It was, for sure, my first parade. I had gone with some other friends, while she had been out with her boyfriend. When she came over I said happy gay day.
There was the football field of my bed. There were windows like the back of my mother’s head. There was my baby brother in the next room. I don’t remember her hands. Or the kiss. It is like the half-awake, alarm clock bring-bringing of a dream about a dream. Did anything just happen?
Only, I’m not sure I ever slept again. Only, of course I’ve slept since then. Only, after, in that basement room, with the night outside my windows, and my Julia fast asleep for sure in her own bed, I believed: I will not sleep again; this, this is sleeping now, this, this is the place with no stairs leading into a fire so hot it is black; this is a room, not mine, a body, not mine, this is now, forever.
I was young. It was the first time a woman had offered me her lips. Sick with desire I was. What I remember is believing it impossible, not the kiss, but her leaving. What I remember most is the physical pain of it. I am thirty-six years old and still I feel her fingers grip and it hurts my stomach. What I know, still, is it doesn’t last and it never goes away.
WHEN WE WERE GUESTS after Julie Otsuka
And we walked through corrugated metal gates and crossed into cinder-block houses without saying con permiso.
We thought the women used too much soap when they washed our clothes and we said so.
We said the land was beautiful. And, wow, there are cows in the road.
We said the women would have less to wash if they had less.
We tripped on the cobblestones and waited for the cows to pass. When the cows leaned in to chew the green leaves from young trees we said move along.
We said there were too many empty bags of chips and paper bits on the street.
We told each other how we’d picked up trash and brought it to the trashcans in our dorm rooms.
When the women who worked came into our rooms to take our trash we said gracias.
When the men who worked took our trash out back, burned what they could and buried the rest, we asked what that smell was.
When we saw them walk to the woods with machetes in the misty morning—to cut trees for their wood-stoves—we said: are they aware of the environmental impacts?
Chris Shorne holds an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles and has recently published in Utne online, Portland Review, and Entropy Magazine. Shorne spent 2017 as a human rights accompanier in Guatemala and previously taught at Bent, a queer writing institute.
Cover Image:”time frame 7 (ghosts)”Noemi Ixchel MartinezScreenprint, acrylic mixed media on paper2018