When I was eleven I fell in love with Mathew—not Matt or Mat-the-Rat or MC (who was also a Matt)—but Mathew, who had a whole name and small hands, who I shaved my legs for and who never kissed me or even looked at me like he wanted to.
When I was eight I fell in love with Katya, who had a friend-that-was-a-boy and no father—like me—who didn’t play pretend but dug up stones, ate the wild beans that grew on bushes behind the baseball diamond, who moved away and left sunspots in my eyes.
(but I wanted to be her, so it didn’t count)
When I was twelve I fell in love with Dylan, who was blonde, and with Geoff, who was new. I had braces, and he had teeth that stuck out in eight directions, could’ve eaten corn through a chain-link fence. She had a boy’s name and dancer’s legs, a bedroom in an attic with closet doors that came up to our belly buttons, full of pink and black and tulle.
(but I liked him more, so it didn’t count)
When I was thirteen I breathed easier, chest open, I kissed Geoff in the parking lot of a movie theater, forgot the movie, forgot the cars, forgot my own tongue.
(Dylan kissed Nick, kissed Matt, kissed Ryan, was happy, too)
When I was seven I fell in love with Ashley, who was in spec ed—like me—who had candy in paper sacks, two parents and four siblings, an older brother that lived in her basement with wife and kids, mugs I never noticed were jam jars.
(but she was all I had, so it didn’t count)
When I was four I fell in love with Katie, who was beautiful as a doll, pale face, dark hair, who walked on tiptoes and still came up to my chin, who gave me latkes and filled my pockets with string.
(but I was just a kid, so it didn’t count)
When I was fourteen I fell in love with Simon, who liked my poetry,
When I was fourteen I fell in love with Callum, in my math class,
When I was fourteen I fell in love with Scott, who gave me pizza,
When I was fourteen I fell in love with Nick, who smelled like pot.
(When I was fourteen I fell in love with high school, stone and flesh, that straightened my shoulders, that lifted my chin, that embraced me like a mother and raised me like a queen)
When I was seventeen I fell in love with Remy, who blew in scattershot, who stained my fingers, who dyed her hair green, hid under desks, was prescribed lithium (among other things), who dropped out, who came out.
(I stuttered, stumbled, touched her arm
but I wasn’t gay, so it didn’t count)
When I was fifteen I fell in love with Vana, who was wide-eyed as a cartoon, cute as Betty Boop, who moved in waves and thought in pictures, who loved boys but never touched them, who touched me: shoulders, face, back, and hands.
(but she was straight, straight, painfully straight,
so it didn’t count)
When I was twenty I fell in love with Ari, who talked with his hands and talked too much, whose Adam’s apple was a road sign, who moved through crowds like a knife, who always had to be right, and was (most of the time).
(and it counted,
but I had her, so it didn’t matter)
When I was eighteen I fell in love with her, who pulled me down in dandelions, who kissed me behind a stranger’s house, who gave me her hand, her bed, her whole name, who went out with me, who came out with me, cow-eyed, dog-loyal, mercurial as a cat.
(who looked at me like she wanted to)
—Meagan Black is the youngest of six children. She won the 2012 Lillian I. Found Award for lyric poetry and is now the Editorial Assistant for Arc Poetry Magazine. Her writing has appeared in Sterling, Carousel Magazine, Carleton Now, and on the Mad Hatters’ Review website.
When I’m at work and I read things like this, it makes me want to be at home with the person I love (who is my home). It also nudges that writing urge. Well done, Meagan!