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Sophomore year of high school, our teacher parses Joni Mitchell songs on the overhead projector and encourages us to write poems about our feelings. Peter is curly haired, gracefully muscled, olive skinned, with a full tender mouth and blue eyes. He’s often mysteriously absent from class, which adds to his allure. One day I notice him walking in the hall wearing a worn white tee shirt that is slightly too big at the collar. I can see his neck where it connects to his shoulder as he walks by, tan skin over muscle and bone.

We have friends in common, and as I spend more time around him both his allure and his mystery deepen. He has a kind of otherness, some sort of contentment that separates him from the anxious, analytical people I know. He feels whole, all of a piece, strong and gentle in the way he moves in the world. No matter how stoned we all are, Peter can always drive everyone home. Even our older friends don’t do this.

In junior year one afternoon I watch him play drums in his bedroom on the third floor of his parent’s house. Peter is focused on the music as it moves through his body. His stomach muscles hold his torso still while his arms and hands, legs and feet, move in complicated rhythms. I watch his mouth as he concentrates. What would it feel like to have Peter focus on me that way? To be as close to him as the music?

When he kisses me for the first time, after driving me home one night, I am so happy I laugh in delight. Touching him feels like touching water or sand or the age-worn boulders on Lighthouse beach. He smells like fresh bread, like sunwarmed skin, like the ocean, like all the best things I’ve ever smelled. I breathe him in.

Afterward, I get out of the car in a joyful daze and walk into the kitchen. I stand by the stove in a pool of stillness while my family chatters and swirls around me. “I want Peter to be my mate.” The thought arrives in my head, dropping into the stillness like a stone into a pond. It doesn’t sound like my voice; what fifteen-year-old uses a word like “mate”? But I listen and offer an echo, “I want Peter.”

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