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, 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 pyramids

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

for the moment–

the viscous

sweetness of cream,

and rapid metabolisms

that would

make it easier

to forget everything.

window dressing

       you have

everything arranged

          in your plate-glass window:

                 tinted skin and

      pressed silk hats

                 on plastic mannequins

                        but there’s

                                   nothing inside the shop

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