You meet at a bar. He’s an inch shorter with kind eyes and a voice made from silk. He buys you two beers despite the fact you think beer tastes like rotting water and only sold to please the lightweights. He interviews you on your favorite past time—reading, your favorite food—tacos, and what it is you do for work—sales. You parrot the questions in return.

You walk to another bar; you order a margarita. There is a moment when you tell him what you want out of a relationship—a friend, a companion, someone to conquer life with. You open your heart to him, this short guy who asks questions to fill the weighted silence, who stares at you as if you’re the only one in the room, who holds back talking about himself.

He walks you to your train. You don’t want to say goodbye. Not yet, anyway. He brushes his soft lips against yours and you don’t want to come up for air. People stare as they walk by, but all you feel is the weight of his hands on your waist. You reluctantly pull away, giddy.

“You’re easy to talk to,” he says.

His voice was soft, tickling your ear with a poignant vulnerability as the grey of his eyes wait for your response.

You step towards him, pressing your bodies against one another as you embrace. But, only out of need to feel a body next to yours, to nestle further into his arms and embrace the warmth soaking through where your skin met. You closed your eyes, your head fitting neatly into the crook of his neck. You couldn’t bear the weight of his stare.

“Guess I just have that kind of face,” you whisper.

He took you to a movie, his hand embracing yours. You were too distracted to pay attention, to truly watch. You were caught up in the stiffening of your neck, the perspiration slick between his hand and yours. You wondered if he noticed.

The apartment was empty when he walked you home. You invite him to stay. A movie leads to arms around you, to kissing on your neck, tongues dancing between your lips, and you pause.

“I’ve never never done this before,” you say, your voice light as air. You avert your eyes wondering what excuse he will use to escape your inexperience.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” He asks. You smile, nod, and he carries to your bed.

He falls into your arms with the elegance of a dancer. He kisses your lips, your neck, your chest. You lose yourself in his flesh against yours, the heat sharpening every touch. Shivers run up your spine and moans filled the caverns of your mouth. His fingers stroke your skin with purpose, setting it blazing with a confidence hidden deep within. You’re submerged deeper into a person you barely know, drowning in the sensations and thoughts on whether or not you’ve done the right thing.

Tears prick the edge of your eyes, the pain of him inside you too wrong to comprehend. You tell him to wait as you take deep breaths. When he starts to move, you’re not sure when the pain turned to pleasure—if it did at all. You growl and bite, moan and sigh, forcing the desire throughout your mind, needing something other than new sensations filling your body. His sweet nothings caress your ears until your lips are bruised, your body aches and a scarlet puddle drips between your thighs.

The pillow smells of sweat, a fragrant aroma you hate to find pleasant.

“This isn’t a relationship.” He hands you a towel.

“I know,” you say as he pulls his shirt back on over his head.

“If you want it to mean something more, we—”

“I don’t.” You lie. To him? To yourself? You’re not sure.

He traces your face with his fingertips, the soft press of his kiss before he leaves, and you realize he’s fooled you.

Steam from the shower fills the empty space of the bathroom. The burn of the water coats your hair in a warm gloss, the water running over your eyes and searing your skin. You wonder what it was you gave him. Your dignity? Your purity? Was it the ecstasy he felt as he groaned into your shoulder, or had you given him a piece of yourself now forever lost?

Pop a cherry. Deflower. Stamping your card.

The loss is highlighted, but you don’t realize.

A pulsing sting burns between your thighs as the water snakes down your skin. You try to ignore it, to pretend it’s not there. You don’t feel any different, any less of a person. But, he left you alone amongst ruined sheets and a blood stained towel to get lost in the storm of thoughts tearing through your mind. Your fingers find their way through your hair, the scent of flowers washing away his cedarwood cologne. Your fingers run across your arms, your breasts, your stomach as your body begins to shake and tears scar your cheeks like third degree burns, getting lost in the shower’s scalding rain, and you wonder if you should keep this a secret.

Your mom would be upset if she knew.

Her voice is chipper, and she is smiling at you through the phone. She tells you about her day, how she misses you, wondering when you’re planning to visit. She shows you the sleeping puppy in her lap and you wish he was here to comfort you.

You want to tell her everything. To ask what you are supposed to feel afterwards. You want to drive all the way home and lie your head in her lap or on her shoulder and feel her comforting fingers comb through your hair as she whispers her reassurances. Words you want to say rest against your tongue as she asks how you are, what you’ve been up to.

What would she say if she knew how easily you’d let him into your bed? Would she yell? Would she cry? Or would her silence drown you in guilt?

She wants you to be happy—you know that.

She wants you to be safe—you know that too.

So, what’s keeping those words stuck to the surface of your tongue like a rotting fungus? Disappointment? Anger? … Disgust?

You don’t want her to hate you.

You don’t want to see the sadness glimmer in her eyes, tears threatening to spill as she says you should have done differently.

You want to confess that it meant more to you than the carnal physicality or the need to feel a connection to something—anything. How he made you feel safe, wanted, no longer alone. But how to form those words lining the seam of your lips.

She waits for your answer.

“Mom, I’m not a virgin,” you say, cringing at the rasp in your voice. You watch her through the camera screen, her eyes scrunched, unsure if she’s heard you correctly.

“What?” She asks, but she heard you the first time.

You nod.

And she smiles. “How was it?”

You meet at a bar. He’s different than the last. You lift your chin to look up into his brown eyes and he orders you a long island. You’re hesitant to open up. You answer his questions, smile, laugh, but your hands shake. You don’t want it to be like the last time.

But he listens. He understands. He walks you home.

You invite him in and fall asleep in his arms, cradled against his chest. You can hear his heartbeat like a frantic metronome, and you smile. He murmurs, “you’re very easy to talk to,” into your hair.

You don’t have to look up, your eyes are already closed. The slow rise and fall of his chest soothe the shaking of your hands and the slight tremble in your voice. “You are too,” you say back.

His lips are flush against yours, the heat within you blooming with a passion you recognize from before. Your heart leaps, but you don’t want to stop. His arms around you, your legs around him and there is no pain, no loss, no emptiness.

You ask him to stay after and he says, “of course.” He draws lazy circles on your back with his fingertips and you hum with content. He asks you about your family, your friends. He plans your next date, all while you slowly drift off with the realization that you have opened up once more and with him you don’t regret one second.