My Sex Ed.
When “masticate” was a vocabulary word,
the whole class snickered; everyone, but me.
“To chew,” I announced, the only raised hand.
When I first wore a sanitary pad, I wore two
taped against my legs at a soccer game
the day I forgot my shin guards.
When at eighteen, I still hadn’t menstruated,
mom sent me to the doctor to know if I could
one day have babies. I drank
the 32 ounces of water before
my ultrasound, repositioning my legs again and
again in the waiting room until I cried
so I wouldn’t piss myself.
When a girl in my dorm explained how sex works,
she said the penis goes inside your vagina,
not between your lower lips like a hot dog in a bun.
“Ouch!” my friend and I squealed in
unison or what felt like unison.
When I thought I was ready to “do it,” I spent
an hour at the public library with
sex books hidden inside encyclopedias,
trying to catch up on all I had missed,
blushing, laying my elbow
across the page
whenever someone walked by.
when I lost
I knew better
than to look for it
under the bed.
Sex, a Place
With tangled legs and intertwined fingers
we build a fort, make sex a place.
Our hands roam up legs, stomachs; down necks, breasts.
Our fingers grip sheets, skin, hair in fistfuls.
Our tongues thrust into warm spaces: lick lips, ridges, valleys.
We play, naked: clothes heaped on the ground.
We flood our senses: fingers moaning for more
to trace, grip, graze, tongues clutching up flavors,
mouths listening, warm, hungry. Soft light shadowing
hipbones, skin shivering at the taste of touch.
The sheets smell like us, the moist between our legs.
We pack our place with us, carry it; our reprieve
we pitch against trees, in backseats, behind doors.
Between the gym and the dentist, or early morning,
or in the dark of night when the dew is settling in,
we return, gaping again, to this place only we can make.
The first time I slept next to a body that wasn’t my sister’s,
I didn’t take off my coat. My gray wool coat, so long
it covered my ass because that’s how you manage through
winters here in Nebraska. I was sweating an unholy amount
at my first boyfriend’s house on his bed without
a headboard or footboard that wasn’t against a wall, just
drifting in the middle of the room like a wayward raft.
When his body was next to mine, I listened
to his breathing, waited for it to thicken so I
could stop worrying that he would touch me.
“You can take your coat off,” he said
and I said, “I’m fine. I’m not even hot,” although
no doubt he smelled my armpits through the wool.
I listened to a clock tick in the other room and worried
his roommate with the shiny shirt and the samurai sword would
walk in and make lewd eyes and ask if we had banged yet and
worried, mostly, about what my mother would say if she ever
found out. I lay there, still as a corpse, cursing myself
for this knack I had of putting myself at the mercy of a man,
daring not to move until I thought he was asleep.
Then I pushed my thick sleeves up to my elbow, hoping
he wouldn’t wake at the sound and touch me at
dreaded last, that I could stay
cocooned in this coat a while longer, breathing still.
the sad beats
out the sex and then we lie
in bed silently, touching
vaguely, distractedly: an
arm over a stomach maybe,
a toe resting against a foot.
We stare at our arms or the ceiling,
anything but each other, afraid of
what we are without our bodies.
Holly Pelesky is a lover of spreadsheets, giant sandwiches, and handwritten letters. She holds an MFA from the University of Nebraska. She cobbles together gigs to get by, refusing to give up this writing life. She lives in Nebraska with her two sons.