Remember the bus in elementary school?
There was no air conditioning so you and the other kids would open all the windows, and the wind would whip your hair into a knotted mess for your mom to brush out later. You’d pass the time by singing along to the bus driver’s country station and staring out the window, even though there wasn’t much to see. Corn and beans in the endless miles of fields a few months out of the year, an acre of trees in the distance, a dog testing the limits of the invisible fence. And those hot days, remember how sweat would gather under your thighs on the vinyl seats?
It was on one of those days that the thing with Ethan happened. You were in the third grade and so was Ethan, a skinny blonde kid with glasses and dramatically belted jeans, who lived right down the road. You and Ethan were among the last kids on the bus since you lived the furthest from the school, clear out in the country. On this particular day you were talking about boobs. Whose boobs specifically, you’ll never recall, but you remember your confusion when Ethan asks to see yours.
“I don’t have boobs,” you explain. “Those come in when you’re older.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure. That’s why ladies wear bras and kids don’t.”
“Let me see.”
And you shrug, baffled as to why someone would want to see the pale white skin stretched across your ribcage, totally void of excess flesh except your nipples. Ethan takes two fingers and tugs the collar of your white t-shirt towards him. It digs into the back of your neck. He moves forward and looks down the gap. He only looks for a second before he jerks his head back, like he thinks he’s getting in trouble, but he grins eagerly.
Your collar has barely settled when he grabs it to look again. You are surprised, but you don’t argue, even though you feel different now. You feel like you’ve seen that grin before, playing games with someone who cheats. Ethan looks again and grins and squirms in his seat.
You’re afraid you made a mistake, that maybe nipples do count as boobs after all. Ethan shifts his hold on your collar to look at your chest from different angles. You’re ashamed of how stupid you’ve been and suddenly you’re staring at Ethan’s wire frame glasses, wondering if they’d be easy to snap in two. You stare for a long time, and you’re pretty sure they’d break real easy.
Your hand twitches and starts towards those glasses twice but then you tuck it under your leg. Ethan’s house was only a mile or so away so you figure the easiest thing would be to wait. You turn your head away from Ethan and count rows of corn. You don’t know the song on the radio, but you hum along anyway, trying to guess the melody.
An Indiana native, Molly Miller is a queer, disabled writer based in Connecticut. She has a BA in English Education from Purdue University and an MFA from Southern Connecticut State University. Molly survived the removal of a brain tumor in June and is recovering in the company of her partner Eric and their pets. She’d be miffed if she lived through that just to die from Covid, so please wear a mask. 🙂
Help support Jellyfish Review. $3, $15, $50, $100… every little helps a lot.
(Next: Snow Sweeping by Abby Manzella)
(Previous: Beach Day by Gina Chung)
Art Public Domain Files no copyright restrictions