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We Live in the Gray

By James Roach

The boys lined up

to fill my virgin mouth

and we explored parts of each other

so-far meant only for our own hands.

I’m afraid

that if I expose

this to a therapist,

they will invoke

language like “sexual” and “abuse”

and I am not ready

to embrace that trauma.

We couldn’t have known

the meaning of consent,

no matter how forbidden our actions.

We hid our touching

in dark places,

locked bedrooms,

and the part of my parent’s basement

light couldn’t reach.

I never let any of them inside me,

too afraid there’d be blood

or a baby

before it was time.

Lying on a removed section

of folded up seats

from his parent’s minivan,

I remember guiding his hands

to my sensitive nipples

while he went down on me,

my new body giving me things

for others to take.

Trading blowjobs for stolen cigarettes,

baring my girl-

ish figure

for any boy who claimed desire,

never felt immoral at the time.

That particular shame

came later, when I was told

having urges that young

was every synonym for abnormal,

that letting a group of boys

use my prepubescent body

for our pleasure,

between softball games and math tests,

wasn’t right.

I was made to feel

like everything we’d done

was wrong,

like a series of crimes

we never meant to commit.


James Roach (he/him) is most creative between the hours of up-too-late and is it even worth going to bed? He dug up his midwest roots to live in Olympia, Wa., not too far from some sleepy volcanoes and beaches to write home about.

He can be found on Instagram and Twitter. His previous publications can be found here.


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