First Times

Michael Dickman

Fall 2017

The first time was kissing Sabrina across the street from the house where I grew up. We were standing on the sidewalk, and I'm almost certain that my twin brother was standing there as well and so was a friend of Sabrina's who had just kissed him, I can't remember her name. There were plum trees and most of the plums were rotten on the ground. You could smell the plums turning over inside themselves. Dogs barking. My Superman curtains looked out from my bedroom window across the street and didn't say a word.

Nine or ten years old, we made our nervous way a short distance into each other's bodies and every word I ever used to describe anything fell apart inside my mouth and around her tongue.

How did we know to use our tongues?

Small birds know as much.

They reach out for their mamas with their tongues going cheep cheep cheep. In and out, flick flick flick, cheep cheep cheep. Sabrina and I stopped speaking English. I lay down beneath her pink palate and fell asleep in a dream of — what was that — cherry gloss, Jolly Ranchers, and Aqua Net?

I must have seen her the next day or the day after that but after a while I never saw her again.

Most people you never see again, during a certain period in your life. Late teens. Twenties. Early thirties. It's different for everyone. For me it was between the ages of twelve and thirty that most people I knew I never saw again, but I loved them. I would do anything for them. Anything, anything, anything at all. I wanted to please people so badly. They could have asked anything of me. On the sidewalk. In a toilet. I was on my knees in the sun. I would have pissed on them if they wanted. I would have wept between their legs.

Please.

Please.

Please.

The secret chorus of my life.

My friend Lance brought me with him to his girlfriend Karen’s house over off SE 65th and Woodstock. She answered the door in jeans and a T-shirt with a unicorn on it. We went straight down to the basement. She had long brown hair and looked sick, though it was probably just the light.

Why is that attractive?

Skin and bones, skin and bones.

I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to be anywhere. We were twelve or thirteen years old. You have to get started sometime. They looked at me and then at each other and then they went into a kind of utility closet and soon I could hear their small moans and addresses, pleading and keening like kittens. Something got knocked over in the dark. A broom? It didn’t take very long. The whole time I watched a spider cross a windowsill. Lance and Karen walked out into the hospital light and stood next to the washer and dryer. They looked brand new. They hovered an inch above the ground. I wanted to do something but I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

“Show him,” Lance said, “I want him to see it.”

“Honey,” Karen said.

“It’s so beautiful I want him to see it,” he said. “It’s no big deal,” he said.

All the air turned and walked straight out of the room and back up the stairs. She pulled her jeans down just a little and then her underwear, just a little, and then looked off into a distance I couldn’t see.

Flowers stuck in a field in summer.

Nobody move, nobody gets hurt.

We went back up to the kitchen and drank some lemonade. All of our parents were gone during the day. They worked, they had to, they left notes and directions and snacks. Karen’s skin was the color of raw honey. Her hair, long and brown, like a storybook.

I saw a whale once.

Michael Dickman was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. His latest book, Green Migraine, is out from Copper Canyon Press.

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