by Krista Benjamin
It was at the Elk’s Lodge. They sat side by side
in plastic chairs, sipping soda, her lips’ pink
imprint on the rim of a cup,
her thigh under seafoam satin pressed to his
in army green pants.
He is commander of Company A, Junior R.O.T.C.
Now and then he rests his hand
on her knee, and she feels the faintest
stroke of his thumb, sweet unfolding of wings.
From their corner, they watch
the crowd dance to “Obsession,”
and “Don’t You Forget About Me,” songs
replaying memories of times
she dreamed about this night, and now, here
they really are, at the military ball.
During “We Belong,” the strobe light
freeze-frames his turning toward her:
Would you scream if I
His question warm in her ear, her face flushes
and she shakes her head. Can’t lift
her gaze from the ribbons pinned above
his breast pocket, won’t meet his eyes, and then
the kiss. A thing of him but no longer
him, cavernous mouth, the slick insides of the lips,
taste of stale 7UP. She holds her breath,
does her best to kiss him back. And the beating wings
of tiny birds against her ribs—if she opens
her mouth, if she screams, they’ll escape
and fly madly around the room, captured
between darkness and flashes.