Emma Bolden

We were all in love. We were always in love. We wore cardigans and slipped off our shoes to run-stop-slide down the tiled hallways, into the tiled classrooms, through the tiled cavern that was the cafeteria. We were always moving and we never went anywhere. Except into their offices. Except into their classrooms. There they angled us into corners angled away from doors and windows and doors with windows. We were very bright. We learned very quickly. We were very bright and we learned very quickly about danger, which meant an open door, an open window. Which meant being seen. Every answer was obvious and every obvious thing was frightening. We were touched. We were kissed. We were touched again. Our hair was braided. Our fingers were braided. We promised, promised. We would never tell. We were fifteen, sixteen. We were seventeen. We were of an age but never of age. We smoked stolen menthols under the overpass, in the parking deck, in the lot across the street where all of our teachers parked. That is how they found us. That is how they knew us, the ones they said were ready, were ripe. We picked skim milk over chocolate milk. We were in ninth grade, tenth grade. We buckled into their passenger seats. We lay down in their backseats. We were laid down in their backseats. We folded beneath blankets in their floorboards. We whispered, Is it okay? Is it all clear? We kept quiet until our classmates passed. We kept quiet until another teacher passed, until the principal, the janitor, the policeman passed. We were fourteen, never eighteen. We were promised high grades and high praise. We were promised an audition at Juilliard. We were given Certs and Algebra II answer sheets. We received instructions. Unzip me. Touch me. Let me touch you. We hit puberty. We came to school with our breasts, with our combat boots. We knew only one definition of coming and so we were unable to translate correctly their wishes, their warnings, their lines from Catullus and Sartre. We were in eighth grade, eleventh grade. We were in seventh grade, and we were polite. We followed instructions and checked every answer. We were taught this way. We were taught this way. We were taught one way or another that no had a synonym, that its synonym was yes.