Fortesa

when she was 7, a boy pushed her on the playground she fell headfirst into the dirt and came up with a mouthful of gravel and lines of blood chasing each other down her legs when she told her teacher what happened, she laughed and said ‘boys will be boys honey don’t let it bother you he probably just thinks you’re cute’ but the thing is, when you tell a little girl who has rocks in her teeth and scabs on her knees that hurt and attention are the same you teach her that boys show their affection through aggression and she grows into a young woman who constantly mistakes the two because no one ever taught her the difference 'boys will be boys’ turns into 'that’s how he shows his love’ and bruises start to feel like the imprint of lips she goes to school with a busted mouth in high school and says she was hit with a basketball instead of his fist the one adult she tells scolds her 'you know he loses his temper easily why the hell did you have to provoke him?’ so she shrinks folds into herself, flinches every time a man raises his voice by the time she’s 16 she’s learned her job well be quiet, be soft, be easy don’t give him a reason but for all her efforts, he still finds one 'boys will be boys’ rings in her head 'boys will be boys he doesn’t mean it he can’t help it’ she’s 7 years old on the playground again with a mouth full of rocks and blood that tastes like copper love because boys will be boys baby don’t you know that’s just how he shows he cares she’s 18 now and they’re drunk in the split second it takes for her words to enter his ears they’re ruined like a glass heirloom being dropped between the hands of generations she meant them to open his arms but they curl his fists and suddenly his hands are on her and her head hits the wall and all of the goddamn words in the world couldn’t save them in this moment she touches the bruise the next day boys will be boys aggression, affection, violence, love how does she separate them when she learned so early that they’re inextricably bound, tangled in a constant tug-of-war she draws tally marks on her walls ratios of kisses to bruises one entire side of her bedroom turns purple, one entire side of her body boys will be boys will be boys will be boys when she’s 20, a boy touches her hips and she jumps he asks her who the hell taught her to be scared like that and she wants to laugh doesn’t he know that boys will be boys? it took her 13 years to unlearn that lesson from the playground so I guess what I’m trying to say is i will talk until my voice is hoarse so that my little sister understands that aggression and affection are two entirely separate things baby they exist in difference universes my niece can’t even speak yet but I think I’ll start with her now don’t ever accept the excuse that boys will be boys don’t ever let him put his hands on you like that if you see hate blazing in his eyes don’t you ever confuse it with love baby love won’t hurt when it comes you won’t have to hide it under long sleeves during the summer and the only reason he should ever reach out his hand is to hold yours