Fiction

The Year I Learned Everything

I felt like I was about to have the best night of my life, so I took a deep breath and I jumped.

4.

When I dove in the pool I stayed under water for a really long time, staring at Jason Miller’s skinny legs kicking out and pulling back together as he treaded water. I think he started to worry because he joined me beneath the surface and held his hands open like he was asking, “What’s up?” I grinned and swam toward him and I don’t know what came over me but I kissed him. It was soft and watery and how good it felt surprised us both because we kept staring at each other. The chlorine hurt my eyes. I didn’t care. I didn’t look away. I ran out of air and my chest was going to cave in so I pulled away. As I floated to the surface, he held my hand and floated with me. We were in a different world, where it was possible for a girl like me to like a boy like him and for a boy like him to like a girl like me. I was sad when we broke the surface. My chest was pounding so I took a deep breath and another deep breath and another deep breath. Jason Miller closed the distance between us and wrapped his arms around me. We floated together toward the edge of the pool but we never seemed to reach it. We didn’t talk but I wanted to say something to Jason Miller, something important we would both remember.

5.

Billy Tomasetti came by work. I’ve messed around with him before. He has sweaty hands and works in a pizza parlor. He always smells like sauce and hot cheese. When you work in a restaurant, you always smell like something that once was good. When it clings to you that smell somehow goes bad. Billy never says anything nice but I don’t say anything nice to him either. He found me out back by the dumpsters. I was smoking and sitting and wanting to be alone before I walked home. He had a brown paper bag in his hand, a bottle of warm malt liquor. When I saw him walking toward me, I wanted to throw up. I threw my cigarette into the dumpster and told Billy I had to get back to work but he laughed. He said he knew my shift was over. He came up real close, his chest pressed against mine. He told me to open my mouth and I don’t know why, but I did. He started pouring malt liquor into my mouth and soon my face felt numb. Billy killed the rest of the bottle in like 30 seconds. It was crazy. I’ve never seen anyone slam back that much beer at once. Billy asked me if I wanted to go fool around and I told him the truth and said, “No.” He laughed some more but it wasn’t a real laugh. It was like he pretended I was saying something really funny. Billy grabbed my boobs and squeezed hard. I tried to slap his hands away and he shoved me into the wall. I felt numb from the malt liquor so I didn’t mind. I mean, I minded but there was nothing I could do about it so I let it go. “Don’t be such a tease,” Billy said. I told him I wasn’t being a tease. I told him I wasn’t in the mood. He slid his hand down my pants. I don’t know what he was looking for but he didn’t find it. Finally, when I didn’t respond, he said, “Fine, just blow me.” I shook my head and all I could think about was Jason Miller and how he would never talk to me ugly or touch me ugly. Doing anything with Billy felt like lying to Jason Miller and I don’t want to ever lie to Jason Miller. Billy wasn’t interested in what I didn’t want to do. He pushed me down to my knees and I got so mad because the ground was greasy and gross and I didn’t want to blow him but I also knew the easiest way to get rid of him was to get it over with. It was miserable at first but then I left myself, pretended it wasn’t me on my knees. When it was over, I spit onto Billy’s shoe and he laughed again and said, “I thought you always swallowed.” I told him it was the last time. He shrugged. I’m pretty sure that’s the last I’m going to see of him. I puked into the dumpster and went back inside to finish refilling the salt and pepper.

6.

Jason Miller only kissed me that night at the pool. He held me close in the warm water. His fingers pressed against my spine and found the small of my back and locked there. I liked how his bare, damp chest felt. After we kissed, I closed my eyes and pressed my cheek against his shoulder, the bone of it. He didn’t try anything more even though I wanted him to. I would have let him do anything he wanted. That’s how I am with boys. I don’t even think. I pretend I’m not there and let them touch me and taste me and take me. Sometimes I like it. Since I went to the pool with Jason Miller, I haven’t wanted to let another boy touch me. I don’t want to forget what his hands felt like on my skin. I know myself though. I’ll probably do something I don’t want to do. After a while, it got cold and we were both shriveled up something awful. My whole body ached as I pulled myself out of the water. I was so sleepy. We dressed quickly and Jason Miller took me home. After he dropped me off, after he kissed me on the check and said he would see me around, I sat on my front porch for a good long while. I sat there, my hair still wet, smelling like chlorine, and I got mad because he was supposed to want me. I called him and before he could say anything, I shouted, “Why didn’t you fuck me?” and he said, “Because when we have sex I want to touch you in some place clean and soft and warm and safe, not the public pool where, honestly, you don’t want to know all what happens in that water.” I didn’t know what to say. I sat there stupidly, holding the phone to my ear. He listened to me breathe.

Page

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

76 Comments

  • whodatgal April 26th, 2013 3:41 PM

    omg this was so beautiful and gripping and I couldn’t stop reading. This is amazing omigod…

    <3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3

  • Libby April 26th, 2013 3:42 PM

    This was so beautiful; cried when I finished. Wonderful.

  • Lemons April 26th, 2013 3:44 PM

    Please write a book. This is some seriously beautiful writing and I haven’t been this engrossed in a story in forever. just wow.

    <3

    http://visualcoffee.blogspot.com

    • Anaheed April 26th, 2013 8:25 PM

      She has written a book! It’s here: http://www.amazon.com/Ayiti-Roxane-Gay/dp/145077671X

    • Roxane April 26th, 2013 11:31 PM

      I have a couple books coming out next year–a novel and some essays. And thank you Lemons, and everyone else, for such kind words, particularly about this story which means so much to me.

      • maria14 April 28th, 2013 5:40 PM

        Your short story blew me away. Love the style in which you write. Your characters are beautifully drawn, authentic and raw. I would like to know more about your upcoming books and essays. What is the title of the book?

  • goma April 26th, 2013 3:49 PM

    <3

  • Lemons April 26th, 2013 4:01 PM

    ok, double posting because you actually made me cry!

    I hope this all really happened, that Jason Miller really exists. You managed to describe true love honestly and accurately, thanks :)

  • Emmie April 26th, 2013 4:03 PM

    Beautiful, beautiful.

  • Maggie April 26th, 2013 4:09 PM

    This is taking me forever to read because it’s so good I keep pausing so I can save the rest for later. Gotta have something to live for

    • Maggie April 26th, 2013 4:54 PM

      OK I’m finally finished, but I wish I weren’t… It was just so good.

  • jwells April 26th, 2013 4:17 PM

    Beautiful.

  • dessertdesert April 26th, 2013 4:22 PM

    This has got to be one of the most amzing short stories i’ve ever read. I came to tears at almost every page.

  • blueolivia April 26th, 2013 4:27 PM

    wow. wow, wow, wow, that was beautiful. so well written and honest and pure. i love it. wow.

  • Lola the ladybug April 26th, 2013 4:44 PM

    I loved this story ,thank you.

  • sana haque April 26th, 2013 5:00 PM

    Wow! A beautiful tale about a girl trying to find what love really feels like.

  • Gracie April 26th, 2013 5:05 PM

    painfully beautiful, I actually cried

  • Caitlin H. April 26th, 2013 5:10 PM

    This is so amazing, Allegra, I love the illustration as well <3

  • madicps April 26th, 2013 5:11 PM

    So, so good. Thank you so much. This was so incredibly beautiful and one of the best pieces on Rookie. I wish it went on forever.

  • rachelisms April 26th, 2013 5:16 PM

    Your style is gorgeous! I typically have a small hatred for things written in the first person, but this, I must admit, is one of few exceptions. You even convinced me on Jason Miller, and I’m a cynic so that was always going to be a toughy. I would love to see more of your writing :)

  • Tyler April 26th, 2013 6:21 PM

    This is so, so wonderful.

  • Alex S. April 26th, 2013 6:24 PM

    I had no idea what this was going to be about, but I’m glad I was curious.

    Such beautiful writing, I felt like it was a story being told by a friend on the way to class or something. Conversational and honest, one of my favorite pieces on Rookie.

  • DrewNotBarrymore April 26th, 2013 7:08 PM

    What a wonderful read! :) The imagery and feeling of this was fantastic. I adored it, and I hope hope hope you write more. <3

    On an unrelated side note, today's background image looks kind of odd on my screen.
    There appears to some kind of weird, dark, shadowy, patch near the girl's armpits. This doesn't appear on any other webpages I open, anyone else having this problem? ^_^

  • paige.xo April 26th, 2013 7:27 PM

    oh wow wow. amazing….

  • Ruth-Ann April 26th, 2013 7:33 PM

    This is honestly so beautiful, perfectly paced and magnificently well-written. When you described Jason, I automatically thought about my crush. The acne, his kindness.. everything. I want to thank you for this so much. xx

  • Melissa Zheng April 26th, 2013 9:56 PM

    I read this twice just now, it was so good. Seriously amazing.

  • erika k April 26th, 2013 10:16 PM

    This is probably the prettiest thing I’ve ever read :’)

  • Zanna April 26th, 2013 10:24 PM

    this is just so beautiful… i couldn’t stop reading. amazing story

  • Rebdomine April 26th, 2013 10:29 PM

    This made me cry.

  • rubypowers April 26th, 2013 10:33 PM

    I feel really sad and happy, this was so great. Thank you for writing this.

  • emilycarolina April 26th, 2013 11:13 PM

    This is so unebelievably amazing. It made me cry because I want to be with someone like Jason Miller and I always feel like I’ll never find anyone who loves me. This story is just so beautiful, thank you for sharing!!

  • serena05 April 26th, 2013 11:38 PM

    Please turn this into a book and publish it. I swear it would be an extremely worn book on my shelf.

    • Roxane April 27th, 2013 1:16 AM

      I am definitely thinking about turning this story into a book. And thank you!

      • kolumbia April 27th, 2013 8:45 AM

        I really hope you will! This was beautiful and gripping and extremely well-written. Your writing puts little nuggets of beauty into a really bad situation. And of course, that makes the happy ending that much sweeter.

      • AnoHana April 27th, 2013 12:09 PM

        If this story is ever turned into a book, I want to be the first to order it from Amazon!

  • quieroserdemadera April 27th, 2013 1:28 AM

    Even though my whole self shed tears, my eyes are not wet.
    This story feels so close to my heart, it surprises me how much it made me remember. It made me feel like I’m watching “it” from the rear window.
    I’ve been trying to put some feelings together, and with this I nailed it. I’m dating my Jason Miller.
    Thank you for sharing <3 :)

  • Randilyn April 27th, 2013 1:48 AM

    This was so incredibly beautiful! Couldn’t stop reading it.

  • lishbish April 27th, 2013 2:08 AM

    Ack I loved this and I generally hate anything pertaining to love! It was so well written and just real and I was completely engrossed.

  • AriaZia April 27th, 2013 4:10 AM

    I am pretty sure that was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read…. speechless

  • shelley April 27th, 2013 4:47 AM

    This was amazing! Wow

  • RhiaSnape April 27th, 2013 7:36 AM

    This was so so beautiful and touching…if this were a book i’d have to buy it.

  • AliceS April 27th, 2013 7:46 AM

    This story makes me feel so good in so many ways. I can’t even know how to express what I’m feeling, and usually I have no problems in finding words.
    “He said he wants my heart not my body and that he’ll know I’m ready when I don’t shake or look scared after he touches me. He said other things I can’t tell you” is just one of the phrases I’d like to write down in a journal to read over and over every time I will need something to “stop the bleeding”. Thank you.
    I join those asking for a book.

  • AnoHana April 27th, 2013 12:07 PM

    I did NOT expect this story to be so amazingly beautiful. I just started reading because I was bored and then couldn’t stop because it felt like I was reading a thick book for hours…

    I am seriously speechless.

  • Lea April 27th, 2013 12:17 PM

    This is so beautiful, I cried. Thank you so much for writing like this. I hope you get to write lots and become famous.

  • Ally_O April 27th, 2013 1:52 PM

    This is probably the best thing I’ve read in a long time. I didn’t want it to end! Please turn it into a full-length book, I would read it again and again. Also, great job to Rookie because I’ve never read a piece of fiction on this website that I didn’t love.

  • figgy April 27th, 2013 2:02 PM

    This story is beautiful. I won’t even try and say anything else about it.

  • Anya N. April 27th, 2013 3:35 PM

    This is so beautiful. I hope we can all find our Jason Miller. <3

  • Gabrielle Micale April 27th, 2013 3:41 PM

    I want to hold this story close to my heart and never let it go. Absolutely beautiful and devastating. Such an engrossing read.

  • mokgadi April 27th, 2013 7:09 PM

    This was beautiful/ awesome/ amazing, made my study breaks just that much sweeter :)

  • unicornconnect April 28th, 2013 4:50 AM

    This was so beautiful, it kept me enthralled the whole seven pages.

    Is it weird I kept imagining Jason Miller as Bill from freaks and geeks though??

    • baex3 April 28th, 2013 11:11 PM

      I kept picturing him as Bill too! LOL.

  • wackygerman April 28th, 2013 5:48 AM

    Nice story, I really liked the style. The girl character is elaborate and deep. Jason Miller, though, was a bit too good to be true to me. Maybe it’s because I’m 25 and disaffected, but the end was a bit too happy for me. (Perfect man + acne = freak?)

  • eliza dolittle April 28th, 2013 10:41 AM

    this was immeasurably beautiful and hit me low and heavy in my gut and i wish i could understand all the ways it affected me because it feels really important and don’t mind me i’m just crying :’)

  • Grace Mecha April 28th, 2013 1:10 PM

    man, i love this. i seriously don’t even have words to describe it. calling it amazing would be an undesrstatement.

  • TinyWarrior April 28th, 2013 2:55 PM

    This is such a beautiful piece, Roxane. I couldn’t stop reading, even through the tears. You portrayed sexual abuse so accurately, the pain they go through, etc. I was a little nervous when I saw that it was one of the tags, but I’m so glad I decided to read the entire story. I really urge you to turn this into a book – I think this is a story that needs to be told, especially now.

  • Tallulah April 28th, 2013 11:02 PM

    this is so beautiful. I don’t know what to say, it just is so perfect.
    http://thuggestprincess.blogspot.co.nz/

  • Valerie Violet April 29th, 2013 3:54 AM

    So beautiful

  • dragonfly April 29th, 2013 7:06 AM

    Wow. That was amazing and so gripping. I loved it!!! :D

  • allie.x April 29th, 2013 3:08 PM

    one of the best things I have read, including non-fiction etc etc. one of THE BEST. so moving and I feel like everyone can find something they relate to in this story. I really felt compassionate towards the main character as well. very powerful writing!

  • christinachristina April 29th, 2013 6:58 PM

    WHY DID IT HAVE TO END

  • maxrey April 29th, 2013 9:54 PM

    This is beautiful, and I love the illustration at the beginning. I might have to print it out and hang it up. Perfect story!

  • ___ellarose April 29th, 2013 11:08 PM

    oh man.. this made my heart pound

  • EmmaF May 4th, 2013 11:57 AM

    WOW. Your story is amazing. I’m crying.
    <3

  • Sea goddess May 4th, 2013 12:45 PM

    this is so beautiful
    is it true?
    i literally couldn’t stop reading<3

  • Dominika Király May 15th, 2013 3:38 PM

    THIS STORY IS JUST AMAZING! LOVED IT!:)

  • Gwendolen June 3rd, 2013 4:44 PM

    That was really one of the most romantic and beautiful stories I have ever heard :D

    http://theirfancies.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Jes June 9th, 2013 3:03 PM

    this made me very happy.

  • orthopedicsaddleshoes June 28th, 2013 1:00 PM

    I’m still on the fourth page ‘cuz I keep pausing because IT’S SO GREAT but I’m so in love with Jason Miller. Oh god.

  • double-fantasy July 7th, 2013 10:00 PM

    THIS IS SO GOOD I CAN’T TAKE IT OMG I LOVE THIS SO MUCH

  • mollusk July 19th, 2013 2:26 PM

    beautifully written! can’t wait to buy the book.

  • mollusk July 19th, 2013 2:27 PM

    ayiti, I mean. i’m glad this story is the way it is.

  • Fee July 30th, 2013 7:41 PM

    I know this article is a few months old now but I hope that Roxane sees this – I read this piece while I was studying for exams, in the totally packed university library, and I was really shaken and teary afterwards. It is absolutely beautiful and really hit home. I read constantly but this made me feel things that no other piece has in quite a while now.

    contraluna.blogspot.com

  • Isabellla August 16th, 2013 11:52 PM

    this is one of the best stories i have ever read, it was so beautiful.

  • November 3rd, 2013 7:55 AM

    I’ve never read something that affected me the way this story did. This story made me feel so happy in a weird way and I’m glad I decided to read it. Actually, I’m glad Roxane decided to write it because I can easily say I’ve never read something so simply beautiful. I could read it forever and ever. I’m even tearing up a little bit. This is amazing.