I am 16 when he kisses me.
My father has died but now a boy is kissing me, so I decide this feels better.
I choose lust over grief and fall inside of him with such an ease,
my mother fears I will marry the first boy to ever touch me.
I am 16 and I am convinced he is all I will ever need
that his face will be permanently tattooed to my resting eyelids.
He claims love within a month
and I return it,
The only love I have ever known from a man was
till death did us part,
so my love is handed over without reservation.
He leaves and I cry in my mother’s bed for weeks.
I tell her I will never love again.
I am 18 when he kisses me.
His father died too,
so we kiss with a kind of understanding
he says he has loved me from a far for years,
that I had a glow he’d never seen.
I playfully push him and say he’s being too corny.
But now I’m the one writing love poems for every man above my bedpost.
I actually think I will marry this one.
He thinks so too.
But our distance pulls us apart and the wishbone breaks.
I wished for exploration
wings to finally grow in places I had been trying to stop.
But now that I’ve settled,
I think of him
in spaces of silence
I am 21 when he kisses me.
He towers over me and I feel like I’ve been picked
with all the girls melting at his fingertips,
He is in my bed
bringing me to parties and introducing me to friends,
As if I am the girl in the back bleachers
suddenly scooped up by Prom King,
none of it seems real.
I guess it was too good to be true.
We read poetry to each other in bed
and I think this is the start to something grand
Something I will write about for years — and I guess I am.
But he kisses me with one mouth
and kisses her with another.
I, again, cry in my mother’s bed,
convinced I was just not worthy.
She had something I didn’t.
perhaps she did.
I am 22 when he kisses me.
We are drunk in Hollywood and I have weirdly loved him from the first time I met him.
His apartment is decorated with stupid football gear and I make fun of it.
He holds me in his bed and says I understand him.
And I do.
I still do.
He is everything I wanted to find, but never quite did.
But I am not the one.
His heart is still breaking for the girl before and I let him cry on my shoulder.
I rub his back as he speaks about her.
I only cry when I’m back in my car.
I think I will love him forever.
And maybe I will.
my stomach does not lurch when he texts me
but when I’m in Los Angeles and drive past his exit,
it still feels like I’ve been punched in the jaw.
I am nearly 23 when he kisses me.
He is just the boy after the one I still taste when I kiss.
But his apartment becomes my safe haven
and I miss his blue eyes.
I miss his questions and the casualness of it all.
I wonder if,
had enough time passed,
I could have fallen in love with him.
I decide probably not.
Not like before.
But I guess we never really know.
Oh, baby girl.
One day, it will work all the way. One day, I will stop liking boys who taste sad. Because I won’t be searching for remedies in mouths.
Ari Eastman is a poet, writer, and mental heath activist based in LA. She is the author of Bloodline.