The first boy who kissed me kissed me clumsy and fast. His lips couldn’t find mine right and his hands treated my hips like unmoving stones. He was much taller than I was, with bright pink hair. He kissed every other boy like he kissed me. He told me he kissed other boys because I moved “too slow.”

When I started to speed up and come into my own, I met a boy who looked like James Dean. He was my height. He was goofy, with limbs that flung out in every direction and a mop on his head that begged to be played with. His eyes held panic and fear and speed. He could have been a dancer in a past life. He walked smooth enough to make the grass jealous. He listened to jazz music and wore a cheesy page boy hat and dreamed of being in movies.

I was never as daring as he was. When he and I became friends, I had only drank once. I had only smoked pot with my best friend and my brother and I had never done anything more than kiss a boy. We would text each other all night, watching movies and reading books and thinking about each other. He cried when he read The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Maybe for me, as he said, but I think for him too. Patrick and I both knew how to hurt and he wanted to hurt the same as us. He wanted that pain to be real. To be alive. He wanted to hold it close more than just when the lights were out.

When we moved away to the same college, he and I stopped talking. We weren’t in the same classes and we no longer had the same friends. I spent my days stuck reading and he spent his scoring weed and kissing girls he’d never attempt to respect. I would see him in glimpses: down hallways, floating through streets on his skateboard, smoking a cigarette out behind his dorm. We waved and said hellos.

When I spoke to him next, alone in the dark, cold corner of a dorm hallway during a winter storm, he told me he kissed a boy. He said he wished it would have been me, because he knew I always wanted to. His hair was longer, shaggier than it had ever been. Independence looked jarring on him.

“So can I now?” I asked.

“Not now, not here.” He said. He turned through the doorway behind him and disappeared behind the staircase, down to his room, down to where he could hide again who he really was.

The night before we finished our first year, he turned on Bob Dylan’s House of the Rising Sun. My neighbors hated when I played records, especially at three in the morning. I was sitting on my bed typing away at a first (and final) draft of a paper when he laid next to me. In my twin dorm bed, this was a feat. He prodded my leg and looked up at me from my pillow.

“Lay down.”

“Okay.” I said. I closed my computer and laid next to him for a while. We lay there, our arms touching, our hands almost clasped together. When the A side of the record was finished and we were left with nothing but the clicks of the needle, he rolled over and kissed me. His hands didn’t touch my body. They didn’t try to find their place in our world. When it was over, he laid down next to me and swallowed hard.

“Let’s just sleep for a while.”

He woke me up with a shake. He handed me my shoes, my shirt, my pants, all of my things from my floor. When he grabbed my cigarettes I followed him outside, behind our dorm. It was early. Eight a.m. The sun was up but the shadows still looked as long as the day ahead. He took two drags before he left, ignoring me and leaving me for good. He wouldn’t pick up the phone or check his messages. He’s apologized in just enough words to make himself feel better, which is more than enough.

I just hope he knows that his pain is alive. It’s alive and it writhes and it is waiting for another night to be free and to curl up between him and the rest of the world.