These things scare me: other kids with IQs as high as mine, clowns, cartoons, and the flowers outside my bedroom window before they open. Even though I’m just thirteen, I like to understand things, especially my own fears. About the clowns, it’s easy. It’s the paint and puffed up clothing, it’s not knowing what’s underneath, or whom. And yeah, cartoons are animated with silly music in the background, but they’re still the stuff that nightmares are made of, still a hammer over the head or the long pull from a cliff to the earth. But the other smart kids and the flowers outside my window, I don’t get. Especially the flowers. They’re just sitting there, closed up and full of fragrance. What’s there to be afraid of?
On a Friday afternoon, while my father is at the car lot, while my mother is on campus, while my brother Adam is working at The Fish Joint, dropping chunks of cod into hot oil, I offer up my virginity to my brother’s best friend Craig. I present my virginity to Craig on the hand-painted clown plate—there are chocolate cookies on the plate as well, ones with white cream oozing from the middle. The more cookies Craig eats the more of the clown I see, parts of him at a time. A painted eye here, half of those red lips, until finally, all of him, his whole scary face revealed. He looks up at the two of us from the plate, black crumbs dotting his cheeks like fine hairs you’d never find on a clown. I am thinking about those hairs as the boy opens my thighs. I am thinking about how a girl like me can be reading Ms. Magazine one minute, making plans for college, then offering a boy her sandwich cookies and virginity the next. The whole half hour that he’s down there I hear him, see him, pulling things apart—like the cookies, how he split them in two, then scraped away their creamy middles with one swift sweep of his bottom teeth.
In my sheets with a boy three years older I make myself into someone new and tall. I plan a wardrobe in my head, tight jeans and short shirts that will show my belly button. I see the top of Craig’s head, his dark curls swirling about like the tongue itself, and I see my whole life opening up or closing. I start thinking that I could crack his pretty skull in half if my thighs were stronger. But they’re not, and neither am I, really.
A boy like Craig would probably never do what I really want of him, which is to stand with me under the sun, holding my hand in front of my third period gym class. Just stand with me. Lean against the wire fence, touching my pink knuckles with his fingertips.
Now he stands at the foot of my bed with sweat on his face. He wiggles into his Levis and almost grimaces. Yes, it is a grimace—his lips, the same ones he kissed me with—now twisting into a sort of scowl. It’s not the face he made when he reached for my cookies. It’s not the face he made when he reached for my breasts. I have this feeling that he won, though I’m not sure what the game is called; I didn’t even know I was playing. If this afternoon were Monopoly, I’d have given him Park Place, Boardwalk, offered up my thimble, my pink and blue and yellow bills…
You can read Cream in its entirety in the premiere issue of Swink.