The first time

by Brianne Benness

The first time that a boy tells me that he loves me, I am 12 years old. It is the last day of summer camp, and he’s solicited a girl to help him talk to me. “I… I think I love you,” he says.

A few nights earlier I’d been seated next to him at the campfire, and his hand slowly inched towards mine. Pinkies touching, fingertips touching, hands held. I take really small breaths and wait, my entire mind looping through the thought of he’stouchingmehe’stouchingmehe’stouchingme. I’m not sure if I like it, or if I don’t, or if I want him to, or if I don’t. I don’t want to call attention to myself because then I would be participating, and I don’t know enough about the situation to know if I want to or not.

But we hadn’t really spoken much before that. And we don’t really speak much after. Except for when he mentions holding my hand when he’s telling me that he thinks that he loves me.

I’m a little bit confused because he doesn’t really know me, so I don’t understand what he could possibly love. I think maybe some essential thing about me that fooled him? That resonated with him? That captivated him?

***

The first time that a boy kisses me, I am 14 years old. I’m at summer camp again, and it’s the last night again, and we’ve been in the arts & crafts shed all night, slowly drifting together as our friends head back to their cabins to sleep. The last person lingers too long, and it’s five in the morning, and we goad him into leaving too. And then the boy kisses me. We were on different river trips so we don’t really know each other. I know his name and I know people who went on trip with him last year, and now I know what his face feels like when it touches mine.

I leave camp the next day and never speak to him again.

***

The first time that a boy touches me, I am 15 years old. He’s a friend of a friend and we’re contacts on msn messenger. We don’t really talk about much, except for how he tells me how hot I am. Nobody’s ever really called me hot before, so when I find myself curled up next to him at a party with his hand on my hip, my stomach, my ribs, I wonder what will happen next. I look around the party curiously while his hand roams under my shirt. We didn’t really talk about it, and I didn’t really enjoy it. I mostly just kind of waited with a detached curiosity, wondering what would happen next.

And nothing really does happen next. Later, when he transfers to my high school, he becomes friends with my friends and we all smoke together and drink together, but we never got to know each other any better. He’s a youtube star now; he makes emo videos for teenage fan girls.

***

The first time that I come to while a man is hovering above me, tearing open a condom wrapper, I am 17 years old. I’d gone home with him a few weeks before and slept over, but we hadn’t slept together. He was a football player, and not the most savoury, but I was a freshman and I didn’t know what I was looking for. I find myself talking to him after a party, and he says that I’m ok and all, but he really needs to get laid tonight. I tell him that I don’t know where he got the impression that I wouldn’t sleep with him. So he takes me home. And we make out for a while, and probably start to get undressed and I’m so incredibly drunk that I black out somewhere in the middle there. And I come back to consciousness and there he is, putting on a condom. “No, not right now.” I say, bewildered.

So I get dressed and go home, grateful that I woke up when I did. I don’t mention it to anybody because it doesn’t occur to me that it’s worth mentioning. Just one of those things that happens when you’re as drunk as I happened to be.

***

The first time that a man who says he loves me, really, truly scares me, I am 18 years old. We’ve been broken up for a week when I walk into the lobby of a campus building to find him swinging a belt, buckle first, at somebody’s face. Earlier that night he told me he was upset and tried to get me to go home with him, but I wouldn’t. We’re broken up, I want to go to the costume party. So he’s waving his belt in the air, and it connects with somebody’s face, and I drop my wallet in the trash in panic and hurry outside where I sit in shock in the darkness.

After I pick him up from his arraignment, he tells me that he doesn’t really remember what happened. He remembers feeling overcome with testosterone when he asked me to leave with him. He knew that he would have to fuck it out or fight it out, so when I declined the former the latter became inevitable.

***

The first time that it occurs to me that I was the object and not the subject of every single one of these experiences, I am 19 years old. I’m standing in the shower with my boyfriend at 3 in the morning. We got back to my room after our school’s annual cross-dressing party, and I told him that it was too bad that we weren’t naked friends yet, because then he could come shower with me while I wash off my beard. He accepts my veiled invitation and helps me wash the coffee grounds and honey off my face. Things are just starting to get intimate when it hits me: I’ve never told anybody that I loved them and I’ve never kissed anybody first and I’ve never touched anybody first and I’ve never initiated sex and I’ve never had an orgasm and I don’t know what I’m doing or why I’m doing it. And then something happens that has never happened before: he notices. He notices that I’m not engaged. He notices that I’m starting to panic. We put our clothes back on and we keep them on for months.

The first time that I tell a boy that I love him, I am 20 years old. We are walking around the park behind the parliament buildings. I’m wearing my brown and magenta hounds tooth rain boots. "I think maybe I have some feelings" I tell him, not wanting to name it. "I think maybe I have some feelings too," he says.