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Supine by Cara Marks

This story is to remember Jane Brailsford who planted her tree on 17 March 1911

We are in your bed, this is exciting. I’ve never been in a man/boy’s bed before. You, a man-boy. Seventeen. I turned seventeen two months ago, and it feels a loss to no longer be able to say I am sweet-sixteen. You are fully clothed, I am fully clothed. I am supine. You, on your belly, on me. You have your hand at my navel, desperate to explore further. I feel a bit faint. I realise it will be fine if I faint, as I am supine. I have never fainted before.

We met at Damon’s party, two days ago. He had a keg, you did a keg stand, I watched. I don’t drink, so I just watched. In Damon’s basement there was a room where he and Ozzy and Lin recorded music. Orange floral rugs hung on the walls and a cactus sat on a stool in the corner, it was dead, because the room had no windows. You told me the stool is called a ‘Suzy’, and was worth a certain amount of money, which now I forget; your granddad worked in antiques, you recognised it from his apartment in London, England, where you’ve been. Upstairs, after your keg stand, you saw me watching you and asked if I wanted to go someplace. I said yes, you took me here, to this basement room with guitars and an accordion and electrical equipment. I wondered if you’d kiss me.

I’ve only recently begun to kiss. Sometimes I tell people I’m religious and it scares them so we don’t get to kiss. So far I have kissed three times, twice with the same person, Stanley. Most recently it was Greg but it was just briefly at Stanley’s birthday party three weeks ago, to make Stanley jealous. It didn’t work so I haven’t kissed either Stanley or Greg since.

You didn’t kiss me here.

You crouched beside the guitar which is on the stand beside the stool with the plant, about which you had just said that thing about Suzy, and your granddad’s antiques, and England. I said that’s really interesting, hoping you would stoop to kiss me. You are extremely tall.

Instead you pulled the guitar from its stand onto your lap and had this smile like, yes, I play guitar, and yes, I shall woo you. I thought, shoot. You’re one of these guys who plays guitar for a girl who isn’t even drunk but just wants to kiss. I sat on my side of the wall; the room was so narrow that when I sat on this side and you sat on that side, our knees touched.

You played something I didn’t recognise but which sounded quite simple. You sang, and you sounded like Kurt Vile. You said, a lot of people think I sound like Kurt Vile, and that you had never heard of Kurt Vile when people first started saying this, but now you listen to him all the time, and isn’t he a genius. I don’t know very many Kurt Vile songs but I nodded and said yes, in my opinion he is a genius. This flattered you because you had now equated yourself with Kurt Vile. You asked what kind of music I liked, I said Indie. You misheard and thought I said Indian. For a while we talked about sitars.

Inevitably we talked about religion. This always happens at parties. I had to confess that I am religious, and you said, but what about the patriarchy? I said it’s pretty shitty.

You got bored of this.

You played a song that you made up as you went along, and in it you asked if I had a boyfriend. ‘I’ only being I, me, if I was the ‘you’ in your song. Do you have a boyfriend? I ask the pretty girl. She’s sitting pretty and our knees are touching, and she’s blushing, and it’s cute, he sang. And I was blushing, but I didn’t know if I was pretty. I wondered if you were remembering a different time when you asked a pretty, blushing girl if she had a boyfriend, and I hoped she did, so that you a) didn’t have a girlfriend, and b) hadn’t experienced heartbreak. This second hope was partly for you, because I’ve heard heartbreak is pretty shitty, and partly for me, because I didn’t want to have to deal with you if you’re heartbroken and I’m just a rebound. I’ve never had a rebound or been one but I’ve heard that it, too, is pretty shitty. Kind of like the patriarchy.

You stopped playing guitar. You placed your hand on my knee. You said, “So,” and gave my knee a squeeze: “Do you have a boyfriend?”

I reached over and put my hand in yours, your hands were beautiful. They seemed large, probably because you are so tall.

We kissed.

Your tongue was soft and wet and I’d never kissed with tongue before. You tasted like beer, which I’ve never tasted, but now knew the taste.

I wondered if this was a sin.

We kissed more. It was delicious.

And then my mum called. My mum is always doing things like this. Always stepping in at the precise moments when I’d rather she not – like during the only sex scene in a movie I’m watching with a friend, or when I’m listening to a song and it has a lot of cusses in the middle, or when I’m in my room crying and I’ve just gone there to do something mundane like homework, and she doesn’t know why I’d be crying, and neither do I, really, it’s just all of these feelings.

She was outside the house. My mum is annoying but also the coolest, because she always picks me up at parties. This is so I don’t have sex with anyone or drink anything alcoholic or do any drugs. On the car ride home I wondered if I smelled a bit like your beer.

You texted me the next morning, and I felt faint, and we arranged a walk to the mall for tonight, only a few hours ago. We chose the mall because there was a laser show. It was a weird experience. The band is Ozzy and Lin’s dad’s. He was famous in the 80s. His band is called Sugar Tuesdays, and it had some hits my mum loves. Ozzy and Lin sneakily passed a spliff back and forth. There were loads of people here and the room was dark except for the lasers, and there was smoke from the laser show so it was hard to tell what smoke was from the show and what smoke was from the spliff. There was the smell, but no one seemed to mind. You got passed the spliff, you smoked it, you offered it to me, I shrugged to indicate a cool decline. You misunderstood and passed it to me. I hesitated, then smoked but didn’t inhale, and passed it back.

Your long hair was in front of your eyes and somehow this was mysterious and alluring. You have a tattoo of a caterpillar on your shoulder, which was exposed, because you were wearing a black tank top. You paired it with oversized corduroys and ugly sneakers. The sneakers were scuffed and white with enormous heels, which made you even taller than you are. Tattoos aren’t allowed for minors but your friend Sam stick-and-poked it and you said it didn’t hurt that much but I don’t believe you. I wondered if one day you’ll get a tattoo of like a butterfly, too, on your other shoulder. I laughed because that seemed poetic and lame. I realised I hardly know you.

You offered me the spliff again. This time I shook my head: no. You understood this time and passed it back to Lin, whose eyes were bright red and almost shut. I couldn’t see your eyes because of your hair and your height but I wondered if your eyes were the same, I wondered how different you felt now that you were high. I wondered if it might help you reach spiritual enlightenment. Mum says we each have our unique and perfect-for-us paths.

For the most part the laser show was pretty boring and dragged on. The exciting bit was when Lin and Ozzy asked if you (we) wanted to come to the after-party, and you declined, and you gave me this look. This look meant we have other plans. At this point, I didn’t know the other plans.

You took me to the pier, we kissed. You held my hand, we laughed at nothing. It was cold, the stars were bright, I felt young.

And now we’re here, in your bed, fully clothed. I’ve never had sex and don’t want to because I’m waiting for marriage. I wonder if you’d want to marry me some day. I wonder if I’d want to marry you.

I don’t say any of this.

You put your hand here, which is okay, which is almost nice, and then you put your hand here and here, and here, and still –

I don’t say a thing.

Cara Marks completed her MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia with distinction as a recipient of their North American Bursary in 2017. Her stories have been long-listed for the 2018 Exile Writers Carter V. Cooper Short Fiction Competition, the 2017 Australian Book Review’s Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize, and the 2016 Mogford Food and Drink Writing Prize. Her work has appeared in the Commonwealth Writers’ literary journal adda, and elsewhere.