19

I was barely nineteen before I knew lips could bruise, twenty-three before I’d know just what shade my own would take. I’d always been quick to fall but slow to move. I made the boys chase me like they had something to prove. It was a defense mechanism, really, but that didn’t sound sexy enough, so someone else called me a tease. I didn’t fight that either; there was no reason for me bleed. Not for them.

I was nineteen when a boy pushed to ruin me for every other man I’d ever love. I pushed back, but not the way he wanted. I pushed hard; the impact was solid and haunted. In fact, I pushed my elbow between his ribs, and I ran. The boy was older than me, but certainly no man.

I was nineteen at the time that I decided to stay. I was lonesome, yes, but it seemed worthwhile to wait. My lips were still beige and my elbow still sharp, so I figured I stood a shot. There were rumors that they fought. Sooner or later, someone would grow tired. Someone would want out. Someone would vanish. Someone would grow up and see that what was happening wasn’t what love was about. But patience is wary and lust is for two. The wait was romantic, but it wasn’t my move.

I was nineteen the day that a stranger pulled me aside. “You have beautiful eyes, come inside, everything’s all right.” My feet took on the likes of the concrete beneath them. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t fight. I swore at my own uselessness and ached to run. I was a kid. This man, he was the type I’d been taught to run from.

I was nineteen for a few more days when the stolen truck broke down. I’d been running on illegal diesel and expired plates, but no one bothered to check. It was a slow and quiet town, every clock ten minutes late. A man my age, stopped to take a look. He winked slyly when I thanked him. By the time he’d worked an hour, my violet lipstick was wearing thin. I wouldn’t be a tease, I decided. Not again. Maybe I did have something to prove. Nineteen’s plenty old enough to choose.

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