“No, the index finger is the top lip and the middle finger is the bottom lip. And you gotta, like, put your hand in the shape of a letter C but have your fingers face you. See?” I demonstrate.
“Yea I get it!” Mía says excitedly. She imitates my hand fixture, her light-brown fingers a direct contrast to my dark ones. Her boobs are bigger than mine, they are already turning into perfect oranges while mine poke through my shirt like the hands of little boys simulating pistol shoot outs during a game of Cowboys and Indians.
“Like this?” She asks.
Her nail beds are perfect ovals. The white nail growing naturally in the square shape my mom is always telling the Chinese woman to file sharper.
“Yea,” I reply.
When she holds her fingers in place, she kisses them. Her lips are puckered statues as she places the pink clouds on her fingers, her eyes open and roaming as she follows a mosquito above, below, and beside her. After five calculated seconds, she makes a loud mmmwa, and breaks away from her hand. Her smile is as sudden as pigeons flapping away from a gunshot.
“No Mía, not like that. You have to pick a finger to focus on. Kiss the bottom finger,” I show her the index finger of my left hand, “and start there. Then you move to the top li—um finger.” I purse my lips and let my index slip in between where my lips meet. I kiss my bottom finger slowly and move to the top, like I see in the movies. I let my fingers massage my lips like Tony’s lips will be massaging hers.
“And you gotta close your eyes too,” I add.
“Oh okay okay, I get it,” she says. Her Dominican accent floats into the air above us and hovers. I’ll have to practice the way she sings her vowels. “You think Tony’s ever kissed a girl?” she asks. Her eyes are forest green and copper orange tonight, they’ll be mint by the time the sun awakens and slowly rises into the sky. Suddenly I want gum.
“I don’t know. Probably,” I say with a slightly dismissive tone. She wrings her hands. I try to give her a reassuring smile, “I really don’t think you should worry.”
“Yea that’s easy for you to say, you’ve kissed two guys already! Salizar and Jésus right?”
I bow my head. Salizar had a greedy tongue and I lied about Jésus. She didn’t need him too. Tony was enough for her, though I wanted Tony. He might have invaded my dreams more than she did. I pictured his lips, then looked at hers. I wonder whose would slither into my sleep tonight.
“Yea,” I say.
“You’re not showing me how!”
I am preoccupied with the adjustment of my own fingers. “I am showing you how,” I say without looking up.
She looks down at her fingers, kisses them again. “No, Mía.” I fix them.
The buttery light of my porch bounces off her white skirt, not a stain in sight despite the fact that we’ve been playing volleyball and climbing the yellow tree that grows in front of my house. I look at its trunk, the strong base that used to shield us from mass invaders and aliens, the branches that squiggle out like veins in an arm holding up our feet from the lava or maggots or sharks of our childhood imagination. Now my yellow tree whispers in the soft winds, leaves rustling in the night, swishing against one another, showing us how to kiss. The cushioned swing we sit on creaks as I tuck my right corduroy-cladded leg underneath my left. I let my focus drift back to our hands.
“He’s so cute. You think he’ll like it?” Her voice is an octave higher than mine so as I focus on her smooth fingers, I make a mental note to copy that too.
“Yea,” I say absently. The tree in front of my house shivers and shakes, a leaf slipping off and sashaying smiles to the ground.
She kisses her hand again. Her lips are stiff and hard and I can still see the clock ping at five seconds as she squeezes her eyes closed.
“No Mía. Not like that.” Her face drops. Suddenly my lips are against hers. Or her lips against mine. She tastes of Bubble Jug and jasmine, her lips softer than the summer breeze that lifts her hair and strokes my face. Her mouth is warm and relaxed, nothing like the kisses to her hand. Someone’s body slacks and as quickly as the kiss happens, it is over.
“Er.” I mumble something and stumble into the house. I can feel her eyes burn through my hair and into the back of my neck.
The next day, the eighth period bell rings and I shuffle out of class with everyone else. Mía wasn’t in 6th period math or 7th period science. I begin to walk down the main staircase but there is—as there is every day—a traffic jam. I turn and go to the back stairway no one ever has the patience to use. It is dusty and deserted, spiders and their webs its main inhabitants. I descend the stairs with heavy steps, my arms swinging from the impact. As I turn a flight to the lower level, I stop in my tracks. On the platform between the two flights sits Mía on the window sill. Her hair cascades down her tight black shirt and she wears earrings that are too large for her face. Tony’s hands are hungrily on her hips, caressing up and down her sides. She kisses him with her eyes squeezed shut.
They do not see me and after a few moments, they get up and exit through the back door. I am following them before I remember deciding to. I wait a couple minutes before slowly pushing the door open and slipping my body through the small space. It is sunny and bright and I squint away from the sunshine. Ahead is our football field, the perimeter surrounded by a high springy gate with diamond-shaped gaps. I curl my fingers through the large holes and stand so close my nose touches the cold metal. They are in the middle of the field. She sits facing me with her legs curled to her right and he sits opposite her, obscuring her view. I am far enough where they do not notice me, but I can see them somewhat clearly. They kiss in the same awkward tense motion of the staircase. Something claws at my insides.
After an eternity, he gives her a small kiss, says something that she nods and smiles to, and walks away. She sits there for a while after he leaves staring at the ground, lost in her thoughts. Her face twists but I cannot tell if it’s a smile.
A moment later, she begins gathering her bag and when she looks up, spots me. I cannot read the look on her face. Her eyebrows furrowed, head tilted, lips parted like someone whose words are wedged in their throat. From the distance I can’t tell if it’s a look of anger or hurt, love or hate. But it only lasts a second.
As soon as she notices me, she is suddenly restless, wiping invisible specks off her black skirt. She seems to stand there forever as I watch her, brushing bits and pieces of nothing off her clothes, tucking strands of hair behind an ear that is already full, fidgeting with her bookbag. She rises from the green field, still wiping her skirt and avoiding my eyes. She moves a hand across her waist, brushing off ghostly dirt. I want to give her a look that asks what she’s doing but she doesn’t lift her eyes to mine, only continues patting at her shirt, slapping something off her body where the motion looks almost painful. I watch as she stands there cleaning herself, intent on dusting off shame.