Leah Mueller

Free-Range Teens

I worried about promiscuity
when I was seventeen,
and its alignment
with moral character.
I felt certain
I had sacrificed
my own values
without much resistance,
and I feared this
would go on
a permanent record
that would reflect badly
on me, later.

In secret locations,
I furtively opened
medical pamphlets,
library books,
and paperbacks I’d bought
at yard sales.
I read everything I could
about penises and vaginas,
eagerly devoured details
about their angles
and dimensions.
I gorged myself
with gaudy images,
but felt sick afterward,
as if I’d eaten
too many hamburgers.

My boyfriend and I
had an elaborate ritual
that summer-
I spread out my body
on his basement couch
like a cheap buffet.
While my head
nestled in his lap,
my boyfriend probed
the inside of my vagina
one furtive digit at a time,
until he was finally able
to place his entire hand
inside me, at least as far
as his knuckles.

His parents
never came downstairs,
and never asked
what we were doing:
it was 1970s America,
and they couldn’t
have been less interested.
We ate hot dogs
in bright red baskets
at the drive-in afterward,
and my boyfriend
talked about planets
and where he was going
to college in the fall.

None of my
moral pronouncements
made a goddamn
bit of difference,
because our parents
and geography
would shove us
so far apart that
we would never find
each other again.

Milkshakes and sex
were all we had
at the moment-
the viscous sweetness
of cream,
and rapid metabolisms
that would make it
much easier
to forget everything.

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