Tell me something distracting, Phoenix said.
Against my better judgment, I did:
My first kiss was drunken, and numb from the smokeless–the cold winter cigarette the girl and I were sharing. We kissed at the base of a stage. Her name was Rish. She had me up against a discarded half-stack, mouth on mine, hands flat against my ribcage, like she was trying to push me away even as we kissed. Like she was some sort of oracle.
I hadn’t expected the kiss. I was nineteen. It was my first and even though I liked her, I hadn’t really considered the possibility. But then it happened and I was half-drunk, startled–what was I supposed to do? Complain about her mouth? On mine? No, I kissed her back. Probably badly, but at the time she didn’t care. Or maybe she did and was just too nice to say.
Still, we kissed, and it was my first, and she was starbright, but I think the only reason I remember her mouth is because I could feel the music vibrate in her teeth. Months later, when I thought I was ready, we tried having sex. On several occasions. Once, we were in her yurt. It was on a roof so high up you could bury you face in the green sky. The tent was like a lung with a lantern inside; red cloth walls lit up by golden light.
We started…kissing, and…you know. When we’d lost all our clothes, she stopped. She looked at me, her stare all terrifying, and said, you’re weird. I asked why; she said I watched her eyes too much, her body not enough.
I said, but I like your eyes.
That didn’t matter, she didn’t care—she wanted me looking other places, touching other parts. She wanted my mouth on her breasts, and—just. No. They were soft and fragile and sweaty. I didn’t like it, but I wanted her to feel good.
Then she turned off the music that was playing and said, I want to hear you, just you. But the music had been the only thing holding me together. I think I actually moaned at the loss. I went soft at the loss, and she was like, really? and turned away, and then I couldn’t look at her any longer because I knew I’d screwed up. She needed someone human, and what was I? I’m like a tree, only I run on music instead of sun.
After I failed, I went outside because Rish asked me to. I stood in the dripping mist with my head in the green sky’s leaves. It was closest enough to do that. I was glad for the contact—cold, ragged, indistinct. I was choking. I forced air down my throat. It tasted of trees. Calmed me. I would try harder next time. I told myself, you will learn want, you will learn desire, you will learn lust.