My First Boyfriend Didn’t Know

You taught me to move fast, duck and dodge, fist to face, shoulders squared. We spent two summers play fighting and smoking. I’d curl like the shrinking corners of burning paper folding in and tucking under you. I learned to fight and love in two summers. Two summers of being pinned down in gnat-infested grass, your stubborn young beard pricked my still smooth face.

You flipped me fast, dropped me backward, held me so my fall was blunt and firm. I was fourteen and you were seventeen. My mother told me, “Keep away from him.”

We wrestled on grass and gnats ate me. For you I was like a little brother, for me you were my first lover. I played along and echoed you when you called someone a faggot or laughed when you bragged about sneaking into Michelle’s bedroom.

I snuck with you, somewhere away from where my mother would find me, and we’d wrestle or I’d try my first smoke. I hated the smoke but hoped to feel spit from your mouth on the cigarette with my mouth.

You beat up sissy boys and I walked away with you to kiss a cigarette and listen to stories about Michelle.

I told lies about the girls in my grade and myself. The details of the girls you were with made me jealous but I listened. I spent those two summers either outside with you or alone in the bathroom. I imagined you without Michelle, instead with me.

I played along like your little brother, just so I could cigarette-kiss you even after itchy grass. Avoided my mother’s rants about spending time with an older boy, especially one so troublesome. Your bully-ways turned me towards you who I’d never turn into. I always wanted someone like you.

Joël Martinez was born in Miami, FL, but now lives in Los Angeles where he is assembling the manuscript to 25 Ways We Say “I’m Gay”: With Kindest Regards, a collection of fictional and nonfiction coming-out letters. Additionally, he is completing Plastic Fruit, a book that dissects the parent/ child relationships of four college students dealing with a friend’s suicide, sexual abuse, and race. This is his first publication.