How strange that the most manly love for a woman can emanate from a mere boy. First love, always derided as being inauthentic, a mere infatuation or the first blush of surprising hormones, and the oft repeated lines “You’re much to young to know. It will pass.” Shakespeare knew better, as did the children of the Montagues and Capulets.
Laura Girardeau has sifted through the dust-buried boxes in the attic to uncover the memories of a first love, sweetly delivered by a boy whose love breathed a diamond into a dimestore ring for his beloved. Take a deep breath. Laura did.
by Laura Girardeau
I’ll tell you a secret. The boy with hair like flaming fields loves me. Red curls lick my fingers as we kiss for hours in his tree house after school.Goats swish the rain-glossed blackberry leaves, tasting the world like we are.
He stands outside the bulletproof glass at my last class till I’m free. He hot-wires Bertha, his baby blue Bel Air, to get her started. Boys in Trans Ams laugh, but respect his matter-of-fact shoulders, the safety pin in his cheek.He winks like Santa, says punk is just fashion. He rescues the boy in the wheelchair when others throw him in the dumpster.
He comes to the door to meet my mother in his black leather jacket. When she’s not looking, he flashes my name in delicate scabs over his heart. There’s always a note in our pockets, just received or about to be given. He draws us popping freckled puffballs in the forest, with captions for what we talk about: materialism or mountain light. He draws a heart bubble around us so we do this forever, on paper at least.
“I love you. Someday I will marry you,” he carves on a branch I keep under my bed. He wants to build a cabin, a baby of pure love. I’d rather hike the globe first, write the story to stop all wars, at least go to college. Thirty’s a good age, not 16.
He lives in a trailer, where a skylight holds one piece of sky. It’s enough. When it rains, his family opens the windows to let the storm inside. They touch as they pass in the hall that holds them tight. They listen to what I love: the Three Sisters mountains, how they hold me like a family.
Our clothing is a country we take time to explore. The Who sings “Love, Reign O’er Me” over and over, as violet lightning strikes the land. His thumbs play the song inside me, and I glisten like wet moss on the oaks outside. We could go all the way like everyone. But we’d miss the journey from mouth to shoulder blade, thigh hair to navel fuzz, what we think to what we feel. Like one piece of sky, it’s enough.
When my parents assume and ground me, he sews me a buckskin pouch for protection. Inside are fir needles, quartz from our walks, a tiny pink ring from Woolworth’s. He bikes miles uphill to say goodnight. The screen squares taste of metal, his notes soaked with tears instead of Old Spice.
Twenty years later, I find the power pouch, filled with forests and the sparkling crystals of our bodies. The dimestore ring, the carved branch that says it straight. We’re adults now. Do men still nick our names in skin, take time to stoke the fire? Do they listen to what we love, use their power to protect our hearts? If they no longer say it straight, that is love lost. I watch for violet lightning. Love, Reign O’er Me.