He wanted to meet my parents. The night before I invited him over, I told him that wasn’t necessary, that my parents held no illusions about my virtue and dignity. He stopped smiling. He said, “But I do.” I felt hot and heavy again like I did that night at the pool. I got angry, told him not to treat me so nice, walked away, walked away so fast it was hard to breathe. He ran after me, his feet pounding the warm pavement. He grabbed my shoulder and tried to turn me around but I fought him and started crying and got even angrier because I cry ugly. He let me fight him and throw my fists into his chest and he held me so tight it was like he was trying to pull me into his body. When he showed up at my house, I peeked through the window next to the front door. He was shifting from foot to foot and looked so young and scared. I didn’t want anything in my house to hurt him. I turned and leaned against the door and exhaled. I can’t even explain how I felt. Maybe I felt everything, all at once. Jason Miller rang the doorbell again and my father yelled, “Someone get the fucking door.” When I opened the door, Jason Miller smiled. He looked at me hard, and lifted my chin up with one finger. “What’s wrong?” he asked. I shook my head and leaned into him and whispered, “These people don’t deserve your respect.” He squeezed my hand and thrust a bouquet of pink daisies into my face. “These are for you,” he said. They smelled sweet and clean and I loved them. Jason Miller wrapped his arm around my shoulders and we went into the den where my parents were watching television and drinking box wine, putting on a real classy display. Jason Miller extended his hand toward my father but I shook my head. My dad looked up and grunted, nodded toward the empty loveseat, where Jason Miller and I sat, our knees touching. My dad looked at my boyfriend, well, I guess he’s my boyfriend, we still haven’t talked about it, and he said, “You’re about what I’d expect, not much to look at.” Jason Miller turned so red, all up his neck and through his ears. I stared down at my feet but I held Jason Miller’s hand real tight. I know it had to hurt but he didn’t wince or pull away. He held my hand too, just as tight, tighter even.
After he met my parents, I didn’t think Jason Miller would ever call again. My mother was checked out the whole time, like she always is, staring at the TV, never blinking. My brother was out with his friends. We ordered a pizza, my mother couldn’t even be bothered to cook, and ate from paper plates like animals. Jason Miller told my father he was majoring in mechanical engineering, said he had good prospects, like it was 40 years ago, like he was speaking to a man who cared about the future prospects of the boy his daughter was seeing, like my father was a man who deserved to know anything about me. When it got to be too much, when my skin felt cut up and raw, I said, “Let’s go to my room,” and Jason Miller blushed again. He blushes more than any boy or girl I’ve ever known. As we left the room, Jason Miller said, “I’m going to be a good man to your daughter.” My father waved his arm, then let it hang limply at his side. Good men make him uncomfortable. Men who are interested in his daughter make him uncomfortable. My father is the jealous type. Jason Miller and I sat on the edge of my bed. I couldn’t look him in his face, didn’t want him to see my eyes because then he would see the truth of me. I was bleeding even though there was no blood and Jason Miller didn’t try anything, didn’t feel me up, didn’t push me onto my back and try to choke me with his body. He sat with me until the bleeding stopped. He kissed my neck and we stretched out on my bed and I covered his legs with mine and I fell asleep listening to his breathing. In the morning he was still there and I looked at him and saw the man he’s going to be and maybe even the woman I could be with him. I tucked two fingers into his belt loop and understood he was a boy I wouldn’t have to hold on to too tight.
I had to know what our deal was so I finally asked Jason Miller if he was my boyfriend. We see each other every day now and talk all the time and we totally make out but we never go all the way which is mostly fine by me. I love making out with him but it confuses me that he doesn’t fuck me and that’s why I’m never sure if we’re actually dating or not. I think bringing up the boyfriend-girlfriend thing is the only time he’s ever gotten really mad at me. “How could you ask me that?” he said. “You are unbelievable.” He was real indignant which I found adorable. He said, “Of course I’m your boyfriend,” and then he got really nervous and asked, “I am your boyfriend, right?” We were at a really nice restaurant, sitting in a booth, the kind with real leather seats. We were both dressed up and everything. I covered his hand with mine, dragging my fingers back and forth across his bony knuckles. “You are my boyfriend,” I said. “I was just making sure.” He asked me if I was going to work the next day but it was my day off and that seemed to make him pretty happy. He said, “Good.” When I asked why, he wouldn’t say but I got excited, thought maybe we’d do something really cool. He showed up at my house late in the afternoon and said we were going on an adventure. I wore a sundress he likes and straightened my hair so it hung down my back. The look in his eyes when I got in the car—I know I looked good. We drove into the city and he took me to a baseball game. I’ve never been to a big-time sporting event before. He used his fake ID to buy us beers and we ate eight hot dogs between us. He explained about baseball and what was happening and only a little of that was boring. He bought me souvenirs including one of those big foam hands, which I have always, always wanted. After the game, I don’t know how, but we went to this really tall building, all glass and steel. It was so beautiful. The guard let us in and we took an elevator to the roof. There was this whole scene set up with white Christmas lights and a blanket and food and I didn’t understand at first, thought we had interrupted someone else’s date so I started tugging on his sleeve but he said, “Baby, this is for us,” and I said, “I hope you always call me baby.” That word sounded so pretty when he said it to me.