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November 20, 2023 Fiction


Maeve Barry

Hayride photo

The first time I met Nate he asked if I masturbate. People on stilts with holes in the place of their eyes teetered through the trees. Electrocuted hair, revving chainsaws, green spotlights moving through the black like sick bubbles. We were fourteen. Our hands were numb and still sweating. Dicks shriveled into sweatpants and nipples chipped the pads of the bras used to push our tits to our chins. Legally, we knew the ax murderer couldn’t touch us. We’d never known anything that romantic.

The winter after the hayride Nate dated my best friend. He took her virginity. That’s what she called it, taking her virginity. Her hair was always clean. Her t-shirts never had holes bitten through their collars. After, we pulled pink fleece to our chins and she talked about blood. How it looked, in a pond on his Red Sox sheets. Nate puked and then helped her clean it. We agreed she was lucky, her first time having been with a feminist. She pulled down her jeans. She always was pale and it was winter. The ground ripped raw, mud waiting to be planted. Purple circles pushed out the insides of my best friend’s thighs. Nate’s hip bones were like dislocated shoulders. My best friend kept her pants off. She lay like a frog on its back so I could take photos. She sent them to Nate. She was proud to be delicate.

Nate knew that I wasn’t. I knew Nate was gay. Sometimes there wasn’t time to rinse the fertilizer from my hair. I stole it from CVS so my hair would grow long like my best friend’s or a virgin’s. My head smelled like cooking oil. Nate looked like a gecko. The night that we met his eyes were lit up all yellow. I didn’t masturbate but I often came. In the backseats of cars, in my seat at the library. Nate smirked his small mouth and we looked at each other. He undid one of my jacket buttons.

I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

I felt him try to fake interest at the size of my tits. My best friend showed up in her big coat. She smelled like a hair straightener. This was before Nate and my best friend were dating. They smiled at each other. I think he liked her bangs.

They sat next to each other on the straw seat of the wagon, squished under this mildew blanket. I sat across. A guy waved his chainsaw at my best friend and she screamed. She buried her clean strawberry head into Nate’s bony chest.     

I didn’t scream when the saw waved an inch from my face. I looked at Nate. He was smirky. The boy to my right drank a 20 oz mason jar of his dad’s scotch on the drive over. He put his hand on my tit. I didn’t move it. The chainsaw slid through a girl’s plastic body. My best friend drank hot chocolate. My jean button dug the skin on my stomach. My eyes stayed inside Nate’s when I undid that button. When the teeth of my zipper clacked their way open, and I slid my hand in.