Stop is such a stupid word. What does it even mean?
Here’s the thing. Sometimes words don’t matter.
Here’s another thing. My body enjoyed it. The pain. The build-up. The release that a boy could make me feel.
Here’s the final thing: My heart has never forgiven me. I could have believed in anyone two years ago. Love made the world go round; a smile was an easy gift to give; people were innately good. I knew Kyle liked me a little. I knew I liked him. I knew so much, but I knew nothing at all.
“I’m not sure about this,” I mumbled that night. Grady Bolt’s song, “Your Kiss,” played softly on my computer in my bedroom. Grady Bolts believed in true, young love. So, I did, too.
“Just lie down, Grets,” Kyle answered. He positioned his legs on either side of mine and whispered the sweetest nothings (which were somethings) to me. His words were the best, dipped in dark chocolate and colorful sprinkles. Delicious. Unhealthy.
As his lips and fingertips explored my body, a hunger deep inside of me awoke and it was achingly good. Still, I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t even know all the details of it. Does anyone the first time, though?
“St—.” His lips pressed my voice quiet and suffocated my “stops.” But, he heard them. He felt them. He knew as well as I did what the word stop means.
It felt sort of like love, I guess. It was a weird feeling. There was a fullness to it. But, there was an emptiness to it, too.
“Kyle!” I screamed as my legs tensed, my arms clutched the bedspread underneath me, and my head stilled. My body combusted and I twirled out of control like a spin top. Grady Bolt’s voice echoed somewhere in the distance against Kyle’s and my shallow breaths afterwards. “Touch me everywhere, baby/Let nothing go amiss/I love you ‘til forever comes/and steals away your kiss.”
The next morning as I laid crying in a fetal position by myself, I knew my tears were warranted.
Kyle wasn’t a bad guy. He really wasn’t. It’s been long enough for this retrospective analysis. Still, he is the villain whose shadow haunts me.
My heart could have believed in anyone.
That was two years ago.
I was fifteen.
And apparently, I was open for business.
I said “yes” to every guy who wanted it for a year. Then, I stopped.
Call me whatever. I don’t blame you. I call myself the same things.
I will forgive myself someday. Sometimes, I even whisper, “Stop, Greta. Just stop.” Then I remember what a stupid word stop is.
--------------“Every breath I have is yours
I willingly surrender
To all the love you give to me
It’s your spell that I’m under.”
“Surrender,” A Walk ON WATER
Grady Bolt’s house in Nisswa looks like paradise for a crypt keeper. Ash-gray brick with a black roof that needs some legit TLC, it’s a hopeless sight. Except for the stairs. There are three of them leading up to his front door and they are painted with heart and star designs colored purple, teal, and blue. My favorite stair is the middle one where the word, YAMS, is printed sloppily in white for the world to question. For me to question like I have every day since I moved to Nisswa ten months ago with my dad. My mom still hasn’t forgiven me for my choice. She preferred me to stay in the Twin Cities that I grew up in, but, as I told her, I moved to be near Grady. Which is half-true.
My dear Grady knows my real soul in a way that no other human being knows it. His songs are romantic without a touch of angst or anger or pain. His words. I want to believe in them again. Grady hasn’t released a single for 366 days. Sometimes I think I see a curtain rustle or a dim light turn on and off from inside his home. One night, I swear a shadow sat staring back at me for an entire hour while I was standing outside his house, hoping to finally meet him. But, I must be imagining these things. Tourists who visit my dear Grady’s house share stories with similar ghostly happenings. Maybe they imagine things, too. Or maybe, we all want to believe in his music. We all want to know why he quit. It’s a question with many possible answers—sort of like what happened to the dinosaurs?
Behind me, a truck approaches as I’m gripping Grady’s shoulder-high, locked picket fence.
“Hey, Greta! Do you want a ride?”
I smile and turn around, faking surprise at the offer. “Sure, Tristan,” I answer, as I’ve done for the past 30 days of June and 1 day of July.
Tristan leans over his truck’s center console and opens the passenger side door. When I get in, I brush against his hand. Everything jolts out-of-place inside of me and places that should be comfortably cool become instantly warm and ready for immodest things. Things that I can’t handle. Not again. He’s had this effect on me for three plus months now. An eternity. Tonight, he bites the top corner of his lip the same way he did last March of our senior year when he said “hello.” That was all it took. A simple, brave hello to the newest girl in school.
“Well, hello,” I said back. From the tiniest place in my heart, where I keep my most important, forbidden things, I felt a small change in me that day. My heart slowly and then quickly made room for Tristan Thunders. Admittedly, I liked his artwork before I even liked him. His sculptures, his drawings, and his paintings have a life of their own. They’re colorful, but melancholy; care-free but seeped with deeper meaning; a glimpse into his mystery but also my own.
My tingling intensifies. Does he really know what he does to me? I hope not. I hope so. It doesn’t matter. We are both on separate tracks in two months anyway and I can imagine what distance does to relationships. Besides, maybe Tristan doesn’t like me at all. Maybe this tussled-haired, hazel-eyed boy is toying with me.
“So, I’m going to ask for the thousandth time—why are you always at Grady Bolt’s house, Greta?” Tristan could be jealous; he could be curious; he could just be an a-hole making fun of my intrigue. I haven’t tried to figure it out. Still, when he mumbles, what is it about that guy? I smile.
“I admire him and his music and I wish I knew why he stopped.” I admire him like I admire you. I have grown to have great taste in boys.
“Do you think you’ll get the answers by just standing there watching his house, Greta?” This question is new.
“You never know, Tris.”
Tristan pulls at his pant leg several times as he drives. “Maybe Grady doesn’t want the world to know.” This statement is new, too. “I mean, some people keep their secrets in plain view so that other people don’t think to question their significance.”
I look at Tristan who glances back at me, both of us sizing up the real conversation we are having. In another life, maybe I could be brave enough to love him. The braver thing, though, would be for Tristan Bolts to love me back.