When Boys Do This

By: May Hong

Content Warning

You remember calling him Watermelon Head when he got a bad haircut in the second grade.

 

Him scribbling your Chinese name on a piece of scrap paper and you

vigorously crossing it out,

silent-giggling

until you were both kicked out of the classroom.

 

Smoking your first cigarettes together at 13, behind the 7-Eleven where you threw up

and he laughed a little but also

held your hair.

 

*

 

Your grandparents comment on how much he has grown over the summer.

 

His mother asks you to tutor his little sisters in math.

 

It becomes trendy to list friends as siblings on Facebook so you do: brother, sister.

 

Brink of 15, him cross-legged on the floor of your room and you

on the bed, reading—a familiar scene.

 

You do not see him lunge but you feel

the sudden shock of his shoulder ramming into your jaw, the blur

of his shirt—a deep red—and then the smell

of lavender detergent as he pushes your face into the pillow. Confused

at first, then light-headed, you grapple for your phone but he snatches it

out of your hand and flings it

across the room.

 

You feel him through your shorts.

 

Fighting but staying

quiet, sour eyes, tearing

at the sheets for some whimpering semblance of why when abruptly

he pushes himself off of you and says

okay, okay.

I’m leaving.

 

You get in the shower.

You scrub yourself with soap, twice.

 

You go downstairs, tell your older sister. She says, sometimes when boys do this,

we have to forgive them.

So you try to unknot your insides.

 

The next morning

on the school bus,

he hands you a bottle of iced tea and says sorry and you say what you think is right.

It’s okay.

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