Flight Papers

feminism and creativity, art, madness, and play

Three touches.


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The first time I touched a woman, her name was Kate, and we were in the eighth grade, and I didn’t want to. We were at a party with the boys—her boyfriend and mine, and some other miscellaneous friends. We had gotten a bottle of vodka somewhere, probably somewhere illegal, and we were passing it between us. I don’t remember who or why, but someone said that Kate and I should kiss. They didn’t phrase it like that—it was less a command and more of a distant, almost academic observation. Something like, “gawd, it’s really fucking hot when girls kiss.” Our task was, nevertheless, clear.

I sat up. Kate moved to kneel in front of me. She giggled and leaned forward and just before our lips touched, I realized with mounting horror that I did not, in fact, want to kiss her. Not in some abstract, “but of course I like boys tee hee— way. The thought of kissing her—especially the thought of kissing her here and now, surrounded by all our friends, and kissing her like we’re in a play or like some kind of eight grade performance art—the thought sat in my stomach, heavy and gurgling next to too much vodka. But it was too late, and I was not in control. Our lips touched, and Kate kissed me, and we held on for a fraction of a second longer, I think, than either of us thought we would.

I laughed it off, we both did, as the hollers and cat calls subsided. Later that night, as we walked home, I held her hand and she didn’t let go.

The second time I touched a woman, I was seventeen, and I don’t know her name. I was sitting on the steps of a church, crying, because my boyfriend had decided he didn’t love me after all, and if he didn’t love me why bother? I was sitting in front of God, sobbing, and slowly developing a plan: walk inside, give a wrinkled old man all my sins, walk to the nearest bridge, and jump off.

Maybe a hundred people walked by me, and they all kept going. She didn’t. She stopped; she sat next to me; she wrapped her fingers around mine, and she, too, did not let go.

The third time I touched a woman I was twenty one. Her name was Sarah, and this particular touch began when Sarah kissed the point, just below my left ear, where I always started to touch myself. Never at my breasts, never at my cunt, I would start by putting my middle finger at that exact spot beneath my left ear. And then, slowly or quickly, distractedly or intensely, I would run my whole hand and all its beautiful fingers down my body, letting them go wherever they needed to be. It was centering. Calibration. And though I’ve never really believed the whole, “women just know how to touch each other,” thing—as if we’re all psychically attuned to the hive mind of Woman—she did. And she knew other things, too—or maybe she was just good at listening, or experimenting, or maybe it’s just that she explored my body as if I was a new language, and she was at that playful point when even linguistic stumbling is joyful, when saying the wrong thing is beautiful. She traced my contours with her tongue and learned the phrases and idioms of my body, and I, slowly and carefully, learned hers.

I realized as she held me that I hadn’t been afraid. That at no point had that eighth-grade eleven-pound weight in my stomach. And having realized this, I promptly and rapidly descended into abject fear. Not the kind of fear when you’re afraid you’ve done something wrong, something you wish you hadn’t. The other kind. The kind you feel just before you jump off a cliff, even if you have wings. I realized as she held me that women do this. With each other. That I could do this, that I could touch other women, every day of my life.

With my lips against her neck, I jumped.

3 Responses to “Three touches.”

  1. Rebecca Says:

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    Again I say…God, I love you.

    Miss you too.

  2. Sarah J Says:

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    that’s beautiful.

  3. ann Says:

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    Indeed. You should write fiction more often.

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