Emma touched my ear during Algebra. My fucking ear. I didn’t look at her, but the tingle stayed long after her finger had gone. After class, she leaned over to whisper, her warm breath dancing across the already sensitive skin. I know, but it doesn’t matter. She couldn’t know. She meant something else. Maybe that I had cheated on the last quiz, glancing casually at her paper for answers to three, seven, and fifteen. She knew. What did she know?
Later, I slammed into my house, tossing my bag on the floor.
Dad 1 offered cookies. Dad 2 offered talk.
I offered my trouble. There’s a girl. I think she might like me.
One oohed, the other aahed. There’s hope for our little Pikachu yet.
I left them in the kitchen, giggling to themselves.
I’d never been afraid of being queer, being bi, being whatever the hell I was that allowed me to love whomever I wanted to love. I grew up with the dads, after all. And my mom was in love with a man who lived with his wife and his wife’s lover and the lover’s ex-husband.
But Emma’s hair was perfect, and she wore the right clothes and when she walked into the classroom, everyone looked at her. She read Jane Austen and had perfect handwriting. She probably believed that marriage equaled one man and one woman.
On Monday, I wore plaid pants and a short-sleeve button front shirt, the blue one that made my arms look even scrawnier than ever. I stole Dad 1’s favorite bow tie. It had little whales all over. My mom bought it for Dad 1 on the fifteenth anniversary of the day I was conceived. A gross and weird thing to celebrate.
I love that tie, Emma whispered while we graphed linear inequalities. Emma got straight A’s. She smelled faintly of lavender and her hair was so long it sometimes brushed against my arm when she shook her head.
She touched my ear and she loved my tie. I picked up my pencil. What do you know? I wrote, with trembling fingers. My handwriting shaky and small like my grandma’s lettering in the infrequent birthday cards she sent, the ones she always addressed to Alexa no matter how many times I told her to call me Alex.
Emma took my pencil, her fingers lingering for a moment on mine. Her parents were normal. I’d seen them. Her mother had that perfectly frosted blond hair that only came from the most expensive salons. Her dad was hearty and liked to shake people’s hands. I think they went to church on Sundays.
I know you like me, she wrote. I like you, too.
What about your parents? What the fuck was wrong with me? The most perfect girl in the world liked me and I was thinking about her parents.
She touched my ear again. Let’s worry about them after our first date.