Lies We Tell Ourselves, and Others by Jane Gerstner

He pulled me onto his lap, my thighs slung across his. We sat like that in the back of the too-hot car, pretending to stargaze, for far too long. The words never came, only the quickened breaths, the hums and sighs, the songs of our bodies. We listened to the radio, the deep, raspy voice telling us to blame it on the night. It was almost two in the morning. Our parents would be angry, of course: my mother, asleep in the living room with the lamp on, would jolt awake when I came through the door, eyes barely open and already yelling; his father would say everything there was to say without ever opening his mouth. At six thirty the next morning, his mother would wake him and make him go to church. We didn’t care. We just sat there, still as noon at the lake, his arm around my waist, my palms cupping his shoulders. What were we waiting for? We hugged the shit out of each other, then. We grabbed and clawed and squeezed each other’s skin, claiming every inch of spine, shoulder, hair and hip, our hands screaming, “Are you still there? I’m still here.” As if it were already happening. As if letting go meant falling through the floor, disappearing forever. My face pressed into his sweat-slicked neck, bitter as a rush of salt water that slips between your lips, uninvited. It was the kind of taste that never really leaves you, even after it dissolves, even after you graduate from college and your parents move away from that lake, even after your tongue meets neck after neck after neck. My face still pressed against this one, I thought: we just might get away with this. But then I could feel it. The shake, the back and forth of his chest, the wet heat seeping onto my sleeve. I knew he was crying. He was crying but he wouldn’t let me look at him, even though I flung my head back to see. No – he had shielded his face with those gargantuan hands, the thick veins flicking blood up over the hump of his knuckles. I cried too, my fingers buried in his hair, pulling his ear up to my lips so that I could whisper my sadness. So that I could lie about how much I didn’t want to go.