Sunday Stories: “On My Knees”


On My Knees
by Alex Koplow

Last spring at my uncle’s funeral I told my family I was dating you. After the service, everyone was hovering, hungry, and hearing about our young relationship cheered my family up. I promised you really wanted to come, but you were visiting colleges, the same ones I want to go to. My mom smiled and put away her tissues. You actually had a lacrosse game that day. I saw online that you played badly, which I told myself was because you were thinking of me.

And then Friday night you actually talked to me, and it felt like everything in the world finally made sense. I wanted to cram that moment inside of me, rub it against my skin and get it stuck in my teeth. We’d just watched your two friends get in a fight over that sophomore from Lincoln. One of them ended up in the pool. Your other friend punched that metal pole.

Isn’t it weird that for your one friend, that night will be the night everyone watched him get pushed in the pool? But for your other friend, that night will be the night he had to call his parents from the ER. For that sophomore from Lincoln, it won’t be a night. All her nights are like that.

When I ended up next to you on that bed, I thought it was going to be the night I’d always wanted. There’s something sacred about somebody else’s parents’ room. The picture frames and bookcases are little museums. I pretended it was our room. Our loud kids downstairs and our beer stains to be angry about.

I have these nipple-only boobs, so I expected your hands on my thighs, my butt, maybe my stomach. You moved like your side was stapled to the bed, hitting my chin with your lips as often as we kissed. You crawled down and put your hands on my knees, gripping them like doorknobs. You licked my thigh, which felt as lizardy as it sounds. You slurred something and passed out before I could ask what.

I dragged you up next to me on the pillows. Twice I thought you stopped breathing, which would have been so romantic, to die there next to me. We are parents, I whispered, committed to us. I embraced the barely lit room and your staggered snoring. You woke up and mumbled more things that weren’t words. You stumbled out of bed and pissed into a laundry basket.

And I was afraid that’s what sex would be like. A strong, laser-like push. Then you just being puddled in me. Sitting and smelling.

The internet tells me to get it over with. Magazines tell me to wait and make it special. Special compared to what? To not having done it or to all the times I’m gonna do it after?

My mom asks about you. Why my boyfriend never comes by the house. ‘Boys were always in my room as a girl’, she winks. I was afraid that if I confessed we weren’t real, the pain of her brother’s death would return.

This morning on the bus, my friend Melissa told me what you’ve been telling people. All the things we did that we didn’t. But when I saw you in the hall today, your head sticking above everyone else’s, you looked at me, for like the second time ever, and your cheek twitched just slightly. Then you kept walking like lying about me is something you do every day and it’s less important than putting your dollar in the vending machine for a can of fruit punch.

Months ago I switched lockers with Melissa so I could be closer to you. Did you notice? Did it even register with you that Melissa and I completely switched? She has long, curly hair that she straightens. I always said that if I had it, I’d leave it corkscrewed and wild for you.

On the days that I have German, I linger by that locker, dodging the red-faced boys leaving the gym after the two-mile run. I hate German. But it’s worth it for the anticipation of seeing you glide to your class next door, thinking that it might be the day you’d bump into me, and we’d talk, and I’d laugh and you’d laugh. And it would validate all those days I’d spent in German, shoving verbs in the end of sentences.

When my mom taught me how to use a tampon, she wasted one, slipping it out of the tube like a magic trick. She called it my monthly. At the beginning of this year, Mom made me start paying for my cell phone. Now at the end of every month, I’m counting minutes, texts, and tampons. Late, early, roaming charges.

It was weird seeing you that night on the bathroom floor, naked, asleep and so real. I took a photo of you with my phone because it felt more natural to stare at you like that. I took another of you shriveled and cowering around the toilet like a broken sock. I took photos of everything.

You have your student government, your lacrosse practices, and all your parties. You are busy. But I have time to show people photos. I am in the hallway. I am by your locker. I know your schedule.

So you are going to come to my house. You are going to roll on the floor by yourself to make my mom think we are hooking up. You are going to take me to other parties where your friends are idiots and end up at the hospital.

We are going to date until my mom’s not sad and until I find somebody that I want to have sex with. And when that happens, we’ll meet in the crowded hallway by my German class. You will get on your knees and beg for me not to break up with you.

Alex Koplow is originally from Virginia and now lives in California where he tutors with the 826 LA writing center. His work has been featured or is forthcoming in Virginia Quarterly Review, The Los Angeles Review, MAKE Magazine, Monkeybicycle, decomp, and JMWW. Visit him online

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