My Mother Told Me...
I knew this was that love at first sight bullshit they tell you about in poetry
I was in love with Roo.
I was 16 and I knew I knew what love felt like.
This tingle when he walked in the room,
This feeling that when he held my hand
The entire world stopped and I could finally breathe
And feel like I was back on solid land again.
I was 16 and I didn’t get my drivers license
Because every night smelling his cigarettes
As we drove down the highway out of the way
From his route home to my house was a blessing.
And every night he told me “see you later” and I
Imagined he said “I love you” because I was 16
And he was the one and he made me complete.
Skip ahead two years and I am crying backstage
Not because my last high school musical had just ended,
But because Roo was in the first row and
I thought my memories of him had been suspended.
I thought I was wiser; I had been silly and 16
And only thought I knew what love was
Because one cold day I finally said out loud “I love you”
And he said “I love you too and I always will.”
But when he skipped town without so much as a good bye
And we didn’t even talk for two whole years,
It wasn’t my heart that broke, but my faith
That words mean anything but nothing.
Seeing him again was like resurrecting a corpse.
And there I was 18 years old and still crying
Because I was looking at everything that love isn’t.
Now skip again to my first semester in college:
I get my first kiss from a boy whose name I don’t even know,
Pushed up against a wall in a club with his tongue in my mouth
And the words “I love you” crawling down my neck
Into my ears “I just want to make you happy” while I look
Around and see nothing but swirling colors thinking
“I shouldn’t have drank so much.”
“Let me eat your pussy baby” he whispers and I know this is
That love at first sight bullshit they tell you about in poetry
Because boys and girls only kiss each other when they’re in love
At least, that’s what my mother told me when I was little.
He shoves his hands down my panties and I don’t even stop him
Because I’m 19 and I realize, okay, this probably isn’t love,
But god dammit, at least this is something.
And that night I cried because touching is only love on alcohol and drugs
And his words didn’t mean anything but nothing.
Fast forward and I’m looking at the girl in my dorm
Who can do slam poetry and her name is Karen and I know I’m in love
Because I was 19 then and everyone experiments in college and
Her excitement for life and love was more beautiful than
Anything on God’s green and glorious Earth.
And I knew if she was 20 and gay and beautiful and a poet,
Then I sure as hell could be 19 and in love and bi-curious and awkward.
And one night we cuddled and the next day she stopped talking
And I never quite knew what went on in her complex brain,
Except some thought that excluded me and my silly 19 year old love
That I knew was weird and probably a little reckless,
I also knew was love, god dammit, love, if only she knew.
And I said goodbye to her in her room and cried because
Love doesn’t mean anything when they look at you indifferently
And without the passion you knew you fell in love with.
Another year passed and I was 20 on a date with a Greg
And we got back to my room and he slipped off his pants
And slipped into my bed and said “I really like to cuddle.”
I said “So do I” and I knew this wasn’t love, but I guess he did
Because cuddling to him meant sex and cuddling to me meant
Someone will hold me tonight so I don’t feel that dark and alone
Bullshit they tell you about in poetry.
And I fell asleep only to awake an hour later with his hands in my pants
Whispering “I love you, I just want to make you happy”
And “how do I untie these sweatpants?”
I looked down and realized my chest was bare except for his handprints
And I flinched and rolled over and said “I’m not in the mood.”
Only to roll back over an hour later to wrap my arms back around him
Because sleeping with someone who thinks cuddling means fucking
Is better than sleeping alone.
I ran away from that place 3 weeks later because
I felt raped and dirty until I was holding David’s hand
And every bad feeling I had ever felt melted away.
And I was in love with him because I was 20 years old and
I knew I knew what love was.
And when he kissed my lips and touched my breasts
And said “I love you” my world felt stable and safe
And I was standing on solid ground and I could breathe.
And on a cold night I stood outside in my pajamas and confessed
A teary and true love for him and devotion to everything he did.
He held me and he cried and his tears burned my scalp
As they slid through my hair and he told me the Iloveyou’s were fake
And that he would never kiss me the way I thought he had been kissing me for ages.
And then he kissed me one more time and I yelled at him
Because I was 20 and I knew I knew what love was and
He couldn’t ever take that away from me, from us,
Because this was love, god dammit, love, if only he could see.
And then he got in his car and left me on the sidewalk
Lying in a puddle of myself hoping my tears would get deep enough to drown in
As I froze in that dark and alone bullshit they tell you about in poetry.
More time passed and then one night Scott called me.
He told me I was beautiful and he kissed me
And I smiled and laughed and said “I love you”
And he said “I love you too, I’ve missed you, you’re amazing”
And I believed him because boys and girls only kiss each other
When they’re in love, at least, that’s what my mother told me
And now I can’t watch the movie that was playing in the background
Without thinking about his breath on my breasts on my neck on my lips.
And afterwards I said “we should do this again”
Because I knew I knew this was love and he thought I was beautiful.
Only I was supposed to live in New Zealand for six months
And when he said “yes of course we’ll do this again”
When he said “yes of course I love you”
He remembered where I forgot that promises go sour before six months is up.
And when I came home to empty arms it wasn’t my heart that broke
But my faith, that words mean anything but nothing
And there I was 20 years old and crying because he was everything that love isn’t.
Skip to one week in a tropical island in a bar on a beach:
After shots and beers I rubbed up on every attractive boy in the joint.
And it was fun and we laughed until one of them stuck his tongue in my mouth
And I knew I was in love because boys and girls only kiss
When they love each other, at least that’s what my mother told me.
I was in love with this person whose name I didn’t know
And whose face I never even saw and it was perfect.
When you’re in love you don’t kiss with your eyes open
Because you don’t want to see them you want to feel them
As they touch all of you and you touch all of them
And I remember his curly hair felt like black gold in my tingling hands.
Until his girlfriend punched me in the face and the bar shut down
And I was escorted through town embarrassed at how love looks
When you finally sober up.
Fast forward to when I ran away again,
And I started dating a boy who wouldn’t touch me.
He wouldn’t even kiss me but I knew this was love because
Every date we went on was only awkward because it wasn’t awkward at all
And he never put his hands in my pants even though we were drunk
And he has a penis and blood and that’s all a guy needs for a successful life
But he shared a bed with me and didn’t get mad what I rolled over on to his space
And he cuddled up to me and only complimented me on how soft and round
My breasts were to lay his head on, not to lick or to fondle.
But after months of this love and comfort he turned to me and told me
He was running away with a girl I had introduced him to
And that they were in love and they were kissing
And then he was gone and he never came back.
And when I thought back on all that time he loved me it wasn’t my
Heart that broke but my faith that words mean anything but nothing
And I was 20 years old and crying because of all the things love isn’t.
And I’m 21 now and my best friend held me when
I looked back on my short and misguided love life
And I cried and ruined her pants with tears and snot.
And she looked at me deep and said “I love you”
Even though she was tired of me searching for love
On planets and playgrounds so far away from myself.
And we rocked there until my eyes were silent again
And she kissed me gently on the forehead.
We looked up at the moon together and I knew I knew love
Not in a lover’s embrace but a friend’s.
And that night I saw faith again, some would call it God.
Words mean everything when they are said in love.
Friends only kiss friends when they love each other
That’s what my mother didn’t tell me when I was little.
But I looked across all those years and saw her embrace at the end of each tunnel
Those butchered carnival rides that never ended in anything
But her hugs and true words and a snot covered sleeve
And I never said “thank you,” but “hold me” and I fell asleep that way
And found every comfort and color I thought I would find
If I only I kissed hard enough.
And it was here.
With my friend.
And that was true love.