Issue Twenty-Five - Winter 2015

Without a Picture

By Stacey Bell

Josh has a really cool poster taped on his ceiling above his bed. It’s an interpretation of what Aristotle looked like with lots of bright colors. Underneath the picture it says, “It is the nature of desire not to be satisfied, and most men live only for the gratification of it.” He has a lot of posters, but this one is the biggest and my favorite. I really get it. And it sums up everything Josh stands for. I am looking up at it when Josh comes out from his shower, naked, toweling his hair. He’s trying to grow it out. It’s black and curling right under his ears. I can feel it between my fingers from memory, smell how clean it is from across the room. When he catches me looking, he smiles.

“No peeking.” Then he shakes his head and sprays water all over me. It makes me shriek and that makes him jump on me so that now the t shirt I threw on is all wet. I try to hide my nipples pressing against the fabric, which is stupid since I don’t have anything else on anyway, but then he says to me, “You look beautiful, though you’d be even better without the shirt.”

Josh. When I am with him, he makes me feel so good inside and out. He lies in bed next to me, camera in hand, and I stretch out long for him. I do it so the hem of his shirt comes up above my thighs and stops at my belly. I ask him if I can have a picture of him, rolling over onto my stomach and lifting my hips in the air.

“Remind me later,” he says before finally setting the camera aside and getting back into bed.

Josh is so much fun, but he’s also smart and deep. He’s always reading philosophy. I don’t understand it sometimes, but I don’t tell him because after a while I know I will. It gets into your bones and it grows with you. Other guys are just a mess next to Josh. I mean, I feel everything when I am with him. The first time we were really together, I was so loud it was embarrassing. But then he held me and I knew then it was okay. I was okay.

We met two months ago. He was driving down Hind Road just as I was walking home from school. He slowed down and rolled down the passenger window. I’ll give you a lift, he said. I had had a pretty lousy day and wasn’t really in the mood to go home yet, so I told him I was going to the park.

“McArthur Park?”


“Okay, I’ll take you there.”

That’s where we went. We just sat in the car and talked. Then after about an hour, I still didn’t want to go home so we went to get some ice cream.

“You’re not like other girls,” he told me, his sweet mouth enjoying another spoonful of his sundae. “How old are you?”

“Sixteen.” I said. He gave me a good long look that went right through me and I thought I’d made him mad. But in the next breath he was bending over and kissing me.

“Good,” he murmured, tracing a path down my neck with his lips.

I knew right then that getting into his car was the best thing that had ever happened to me. I walk taller with longer strides. I look at myself when I am getting ready for school and I can see the person I was just slipping away. My friends see it too. They want to know who I am seeing and I just smile. It’s a secret that makes me different, better.

Confession alert: A year ago, I actually covered the walls in my room with posters of bands that were silly and one was of an actor who really couldn’t act but looked good. I was going through a princess phase so I had a lot of glittery pink furnishing. I can’t even tell you why. I really need to start packing these things away, maybe tomorrow night, or maybe after I talk to Josh. He has some really cool quotes that I want to put up. I mean, I don’t look to Josh for everything. I am still me. But, you know, he has really opened up a lot of things for me and I can’t just ignore that.

The first time Josh wanted to take pictures of me, I was really squeamish. It was three days after we’d met. It was a day of firsts, really; the first time I saw the inside of his house; and first time I’d been in his bedroom, which is actually the basement but it is really nice. But Josh understood my hesitation. We went on a step by step basis. He began by taking a picture of me fully clothed. Then he asked me to remove a piece of clothing and took another picture. To make me feel even more comfortable, he did the same. He asked me to pose a bit so that I could get over any feeling of awkwardness. We goofed around some, and before I knew it I wasn’t self-conscious anymore. I felt beautiful and sexy. I was anxious, expecting, curious all rolled up into one. Pretty soon, neither one of us had any clothes on. We lay in bed, me beneath the covers, and him on top of them. Josh never went any farther than I wanted him to go. When he said he’d be gentle, I knew he would be and that’s when I let him pull back the covers. Now every time we are together he takes pictures. He’s even showed me some of them, confessing that when we aren’t together, he has those to keep him company.

I have to admit I wasn’t so sure in the beginning that it was going to work. There was this time he told me he would be at basketball practice and wouldn’t be able to see me that day. I didn’t realize how hard it would be not to see him until I was walking home from school that day and had to remind myself that he wouldn’t be picking me up. I felt like I was all alone. We can’t talk to each other on the phone a lot because Josh’s parents are really strict about his cell phone. Talking online is okay, but he’s hardly ever online. This is really the only way to spend time together. So I decided to make a detour to his house. I can’t even tell you why. I knew Josh wasn’t going to be there. I didn’t even want to go in or anything. I just knew the sight of the house would make me feel better. So I walked over there and there was Josh sitting on the porch with a girl. They were holding hands. He was nuzzling her neck the very same way he nuzzled mine. I mean, it looked like he was. I don’t know. Something made him look over and we locked eyes for what seemed like forever. But it wasn’t forever.

I walked home. With every step I crumbled and left a piece of myself behind me to hit the ground and smash into dust. I know I ate dinner, and did my homework, and got into bed that night. But all I thought about was how I wished I had broken all apart, and became dust and dirt and able to slip back into the lawn and the cracks in the sidewalk. It was just too much to be whole. I needed to be in tiny, unseen, disappearing parts.

The next day I was so surprised to see Josh waiting for me on the corner after school. He looked like he hadn’t slept. His eyes were bloodshot. He just kept saying over and over how sorry he was. It hurt so much to hear him say how he’d been seeing her when he met me, and that he’d been trying to break it off with her but just didn’t know what to say. But now it was over. He would never lie to me again. It still hurts so much now when I think about it, but I know Josh has been true to his word. He sounded every bit as horrible as I felt. Everyone makes mistakes. I know I’ve made plenty.

Tonight we are celebrating our two-month anniversary. Josh has invited two of his closest friends over, Paul and Osmond, and they are just sitting around cracking jokes. I have never seen Josh with his friends before. He’s a different person but not so different that I can’t see why I love him so much. I try not to blush when Paul says I am really pretty. Then Osmond says I am even hotter than what Josh tells them about me. That time I can’t fight the burning sensation in my face. All eyes are on me. I am glad I changed into a dry set of Josh’s clothes before they came over.

“How old are you?” Paul asks. I say I’m fifteen. Josh laughs.

“You were sixteen a month ago,” he says. There is a tone in his voice I’ve never heard before. I laugh a little with him but not a lot.

“Two months ago,” I say because it’s our anniversary and I don’t know what else to say.

Josh then says to his friends, “How old do you think she’ll be next week?” I don’t find that funny but I smile anyway. He’s showing off for his friends. That’s what guys do. I mean, Josh is different, but he’s still a guy. I get it. Josh pulls me up off the love seat so I that I am standing in the middle of the floor, next to the bed. He takes a couple of photos, readjusts, then takes a few more before he sets up his tripod and fixes the camera into place. Josh is asking me if I am okay and I nod, but he must sense something because he comes over to me and puts his arms around me. I can still smell a little of the soap he used for his shower earlier, and I put my face in his neck until all I can smell is shampoo and a little sweat. I just want to stay there, in his arms, in the dark of my closed eyes where it’s okay to be whole and not dust. When Paul’s hand touches the bare skin on my back, and Osmond tugs at the elastic waistband of Josh’s gym shorts that barely stays on my hips, I throw my head back, gazing at Aristotle from the back of my eyelids, letting all the bright colors pour down on me like water rushing from a broken gutter.

Copyright 2015 Bell