Nebraska Center for Writers

by Kate Flaherty

IN THE SUMER OF 1979, I was Mark Merlini's girlfriend for four hours. He lived down the street and suddenly seemed cute, so we kissed for about a half-hour on the hill behind his house, facing the Route 11 bypass in Gilford, New Hampshire. He kissed with his mouth open so of course I opened mine, but our mouths created a strange suction which I found unpleasant and a little stupid. When I broke up with Mark — after I'd walked home, had time to think about things and called him on the phone — he thought he'd frightened me with his sexual prowess. "We don't have to make out," he said. " I guess we moved a little fast." "It's not that," I said. "I just don't like you," and after he protested a few more times, I hung up. My reason for breaking up with Mark was no more truthful than his vows to keep us together, but it was the best I could do when I was eleven.
Boys like Mark were a dime a dozen. I was either friends with guys in grade school or rivals, with a reputation for being as tough, as quick, and as mean. I gained their respect by outlasting them at dodgeball, standing alone in the circle while they pitched the kickball and missed me, one by one.
I thought I knew as much about sex as I did dodgeball, it was just that I hadn't put my expertise into practice yet. I read a lot and was a know-it-all about plenty of things I'd never done, and though I can say now knowledge without practice is pretty close to ignorance, I really thought I had a handle on things at eleven.

Reprinted with permission
from brevity, Fall 1999
Copyright © 1999
by Kate Flaherty

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