This was before I trusted my intelligence to tell me the difference between my wishes and my fate. We were in health class, which has a different name now, more modern, more abstract, though the kids are the same age and, as such, beneath the technology and the cool manners, the same frightened dreamers. What happened was what always happens: someone said the wrong word and I gazed at you across the room in your green blouse and your legs, which I couldn’t see but could imagine. Your glasses fell to the end of your nose. You leaned forward just enough to show me the tops of your breasts. And that alone, that pale boundary, made me imagine releasing myself onto your chest, which I had never done, which I had never seen done, which was merely some version of power to which I aspired. I made you into the sort of woman who would paint a circle around each nipple and look to me for approval. Let the body confess to its terrible urges. Let the venom of desire paint the air between us. Some day I’ll be old and harmless. Sad nurses will tend my flesh and laugh at my feeble jokes. But I don’t know that yet. My gift is to imagine the body degraded, exalted, to dream the two of us ruined by love.
p style=”text-align: justify;”>Steve Almond’s book, Candyfreak (2005), was a New York Times bestseller. His latest is a collection of stories titled God Bless America. His work has been in GQ, Poets & Writers, Tinhouse, Playboy, and many more. He writes a regular column, The Week in Greed, for The Rumpus, and he is a regular correspondent on NPR. Learn more about him in his Fall 2012 Eckleburg Centerfold.