The first time I have sex it is with the first man I will really love. I keep my shirt on. It is late afternoon. Dull yellow light shines through the curtain around my mattress on the floor of my apartment. It takes a little while with the condom and then he is careful. He moves away from me sharply and makes a small noise when he comes. He sounds like one of the mice that live in the house I will move to the first time I try to leave him, the ones I will set hard metal traps for in the kitchen. I will hear the bitter snap and squeak of them at night when I try to fall asleep but instead replay a recent conversation in which he tells me I am easy to love. Too honestly, I’ll tell him he is a hard person to love. I won’t quite mean it the way it sounds, but it will be true. Him loving me will not always feel like something I want, but loving him will not feel like a choice. In the morning, I will put on gloves and tip the mice’s stiff bodies onto the rock wall for the feral cats to find. These will not be my first mousetraps, but I will still be surprised by the blood. He expects blood that first time. I have to tell him it is normal for there not to be. After all, I’m not a teenager anymore and am in practice with loving myself. He asks how it’d been for me and I think about it but don’t say what I think. How did I feel? Like I finally had confirmation of what I had suspected for years: that there was no gate between worlds, no girlhood lost or womanhood gained. No blood or gasps or moans. There was no other world, only this one.
Originally from Maine, Nell Smith is a writer and field biologist based in Arizona. Her poetry and prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Camas, Hobart, Monologging, Essay Daily, Thin Air Magazine, and elsewhere. She recently completed her MFA in Creative Writing and Environment & Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming.
Photography by: Pawel Czerwinski