Valentines for Ben

While the rest of his third-grade class had been anxiously tearing apart envelopes and yanking out cards, Ben had been busy arranging his valentines in neat stacks, organizing them according to envelope shape and contents. He was quite pleased with the results. The stack on the right side of his desk was the largest, and it was made up of valentines that kids had gotten in packs from the drugstore or the grocery store. The envelope on the bottom of this stack was the biggest, and the one on top, the smallest. On the left side of his desk sat the littlest stack, the one that had been easiest for him to arrange. It was made up of just three cards, each from a fancy stationary store downtown. Two of the cards were from the set of twins in his class, whose mother owned the stationary store, and the third was from the twins’ best friend, who never wanted to be outdone. In the middle of his desk was Ben’s favorite stack of valentines, despite the trouble he’d had assembling it. It was made up of all the envelopes that had candy stuck to them or in them, and the cards looked a little more unsteady than Ben felt comfortable with. Ben looked at his three miniature towers of valentines and decided he was ready to begin.

He felt he had earned a treat for all of his hard work. He grabbed the very top envelope from his middle stack and slowly untaped the heart-shaped chocolate, then unwrapped the foil, being very careful not to rip the wrapper. He placed the chocolate on his tongue and wiped his fingers clean on one of the napkins he kept in his desk. The card had snakes on it and was from the new boy in his class, Jim. Ben put the card, the envelope, and the foil wrapper back on his desk, getting ready for his next set of collections. He had just decided it was time to take an envelope from the right side of his desk when he looked up and saw Maggie standing in front of his desk. Maggie was nicer to him than a lot of his other classmates, and when she was team captain in gym class she always picked him first. Maggie smiled at Ben and held up a valentine. She tossed it on the middle lopsided mountain. The momentum of the card and the slight breeze that Maggie created when she turned around were too much for the delicate stack, and as the valentines fell, they brought with them all the envelopes from Ben’s desk. Maggie was already back at her seat and didn’t even notice.


She first appeared my first year of high school as my best friend in homeroom. Tall, thin, a little broader in the shoulders, with dimples and a cheerful grin; sea-blue eyes and straight blonde hair. An artist—photographer. Her laugh, infectious. How we loved each other so. She taught me to smoke weed and kissed my lips as we dozed to sleep. We shared so much love, and then she was gone.

She reappeared my first year in college as my best friend and roommate. Tall, thin, a little broader in the shoulders, with a compassionate smile; sage-green eyes and curls of blonde hair. An artist—writer. Her embraces, warm. How we loved each other so. I taught her to roll joints, and holding each other till daybreak we’d lock lips as we dozed to sleep. We shared so much love, and then she was gone.

Love on Prospect Street

We were three years old and I loved you so, boy next door with the sandy-blond hair. We built sand castles in my sandbox and learned to swim in your pool, splashing around with floaties. You played with my Barbies and I played with your G.I. Joe, giggling in our glee, already taught to gender. I kissed you as we parted for naps; you blushed. I loved you and cried the day you moved. I still think of you, as our three-year-old selves. (Boy next door with the sandy blond hair.) Brandon, I still think of you.


The air inside my Wonder Woman mask was humid and warm, and I couldn’t see very well through the eyeholes. My brother, the zombie, should have been holding my hand, but he’d dropped it as soon as he’d seen his friends. I stood with them—the werewolf, the mummy, the football players, and the bloodied and fanged faces—as they rang another doorbell. When the front door opened, a fake bat swung over the porch, and I screamed. The sound was muffled behind my mask, but the mummy still grabbed my hand and walked with me the rest of the night.


I couldn’t move when the feeling subsided; I could only lay staring at you with heavy eyelids and a growling stomach, unclear of what had just happened. Never before had I felt something so deeply without being invaded, without the surface being broken by hard things like fingers and penises. Never before had simple breath fallen through me the way yours had. You smiled, your face resting in one hand as you lay on your side facing me. I reached for you and you pulled yourself closer to me, cradling me as my entire body hummed softly there in your bed. I breathed you deeply. I don’t remember falling asleep, only whispering that I loved you, and then opening my eyes to a bright morning.

FB im <3

All night we spoke.
She dealt with my spelling.
I babbled red flags,
yet she stayed.
Her picture displayed
on my screen, by her words,
gave me warmth,
gave me hope for today.
How could I deserve these
sweet dreams she’s bestowed?
I’ll accept them.
She’s made it all right.
Three hundred miles
now inches away:
Dearest Sarah,
You are with me tonight.


Do you remember what you said to me? That afternoon before I found out how deep deep was? I’ll never forget it. You looked at me with eyes full of such emotion, I didn’t know how to react; you’d never shown me that before. Your lure had always been one of composed and beautiful stone. You looked at me and you told me you had something to share with me, something to teach me before you left. “You’re leaving? Why?” You smiled the quietest smile I’ve ever seen on a face so loud and I felt it down to my toes. You leaned toward me, letting my hair brush your face as you whispered, “Put me inside you and I’ll never, ever leave.” My heart rose to my throat, then plummeted to my stomach at your words, and I didn’t know if I wanted to cry or kiss you. That’s when I knew where my fear had been coming from, that’s when I knew why I felt so drawn to you: You had something very important for me. But I wouldn’t understand exactly what until you left me in the comfort of myself for things I knew I’d never fully accept. Like leaving. And obligation. Those things were not a part of my knowledge, but you showed me how to embrace them both without pain.