God Hates This “Look, Mom!”
In the locker room shower, my step sister points down to my crotch and yells.
“Look! She has hair!”
“Shut up.” I say.
My step mother continues to feverishly brush sand from all three of our bodies. Her hands move quickly and unobtrusively around my middle. She opens the bottom of my suit in the front then the back, to let in the warm water. Just the act of her doing this offends me. At home I wash myself. The showers at the beach are dark, dank, and dirty. I can feel sand grains and cement scratching my bare feet. All three of us are huddled in together like shivering rats. I hate this.
Why I have pubic hair at eight, I don’t know. But I do know that; I was born too early, I walked too late, I spoke too early, I grew too late, I had headaches, I had acne, I had stomach issues, I had pubes.
My step sister Lia did not shut up. She continued to go on about my pubic hair, pointing at me and then looking down at the olive bareness between her legs. She and her mother shared the same Sicilian olive skin tone and black curly hair. I was paler, with brown hair, and apparently, a huge offending bush.
“But why is it like that?” she continued, looking up at her mother.
“She is older than you. Don’t look there.”
“Let me see it.” Lia asks me in her bedroom, years later, demanding me to take off my pants.
“I just want to see it. It looks so weird.”
“You don’t have to do anything, I just want to see it.”
I never flat out asked to see Lia’s vagina. At the time, however, her curiosity felt like an insult, like because I had a freakshow in my pants, something so different from what she had, she was somehow entitled to see and inspect me.
I took off my green and white striped pajama bottoms and slid my underwear off. I looked like a fully developed woman at fourteen. At twelve, Lia still looked like a baby. She leaned down close to me, peered at my crotch and narrowed her eyes.
“Wow. Can you do it?”
“It” was our code word for masturbating.
“No” I said, and pulled up my pants.
She looked disappointed, but moved on.
“I had the best one I ever had the other day, I used the end of my TV remote and pressed it against my underwear.”
“Uh huh. I like when I’m wearing tight pants and I push myself up, you know?”
Lia and I always played the same way. My parents were newly divorced so my dad would pick me up from my mom’s and bring me to his house where I’d spend almost the entire day alone with Lia. We could never decide between playing barbies, dress up, dancing, house or office, so we would each write ideas for a game down on little pieces of paper and pick out of a hat.
“OK, ready?” She asked, swirling the little white loose leaf pages around in the bottom of her black floppy hat. I reached in and pulled out a piece and handed it over.
“Office. I don’t really want to play that.”
“OK, pick again.”
I reached my hand in, trying to find the larger piece I had purposefully written ‘Barbies’ onto.
Lia never let me have the Ken with the bent arms. This Ken was superior to the one with the straight arms because he could hold his Barbie around the waist or the shoulders when they danced or sat or had sex, whereas “straight armed” Ken could simply raise his arms straight up and out like a zombie. We’d each have a Ken and Barbie couple, give them names like Chet and Janice, and our couples would be friends. They’d go out to dinner, to the movies. The girls would hang out, drink coffee and gossip, and sometimes they’d have affairs with each other’s spouses. It was like a non-virtual version of The Sims computer game which, not surprisingly, I became quite fond of in college.
The Barbie she used was totally off-limits to me. She had long straight blonde hair that was silkier than any of the other dolls. I’d usually get stuck with the redheaded Midge doll or the brunette with crimped hair. These dolls were quite nice and I liked them, but Lia had a way of making everything she had seem so much better than what I had.
“I love her hair. It’s like, perfect. I can do whatever I want to it and it goes right back” she said, mussing the doll’s hair. Then she removed all of Janice’s clothes and put a grey and white fake-fur Barbie coat on her. She was a hooker. I’d brought my Dylan McKay 90210 doll over to play the pimp, or the customer, or both. He had a red jacket, dark wash jeans and a gold earring just like the real Dylan had. I manipulated his head to make him talk to Janice.
“So give me what you’ve got.”
“I didn’t make that much money tonight, Dylan. Some of my regular customers weren’t around.”
I shook his plastic head in disapproval.
“Well, I gotta get something.”
Lia nodded Janice’s head. She obediently removed Janice’s fur coat until she stood naked in front of the Dylan doll. He did not speak for a few moments.
“Now why wouldn’t you make any money? You’re fucking hot.”
I moved his face over her hard plastic breasts, moved his bent arms around her inhuman waist. I removed his jeans and jacket while Lia laid Janice down on the floor, receptive. I placed Dylan on top of her and banged their plastic bodies together, making a hard clack clack clack sound.
The other game we played was a kind of house game where I was always the guy because I was taller. and Lia played my wife. We’d stay in character during the day and talk about our marriage and wanting to have children, our sex life, our jobs.
“We never do it anymore,” I’d say, trying to hold her waist. She was sitting at her white plastic desk adding up the family bills on her calculator.
“That’s not true, you got some last night, didn’t you?” she replied mimicking her mother’s thick Brooklyn accent. My favorite part was when we went to “sleep.”
There, I’d hold her around the waist in bed and feel my entire body tingle. I don’t think I was attracted to her, but the act of being so close to another person and allowed to touch them was inexplicably arousing to me. We’d kiss (not with tongue, at least not in the early years), she’d climb on top of me and grind herself down, or we’d masturbate side by side with a pillow between us, seeing who could come first. I almost always won.
“Do my arm?” Lia asked, holding her dark limb in the air.
She liked when I scratched her arm in a swirling pattern with my fingers, up and down. I did this until I either got tired or started to fall asleep. Sometimes she’d fall asleep, too, or she’d elbow me and ask me to keep going.
I loved sleeping next to another person. Maybe this was due to the fact that I didn’t sleep in my own bed until I was about six years old, my mother preferring to cuddle me between her and my father.
In the morning Lia usually changed her tune. I’d wake up before her, slink my arm around her back and hold her, still pretending we were married adults. I’d press my face into her dark curly hair and breathe in her scent. I pretended to love her.
“Don’t hold me” she said, stirring, and shifted her body out from under my arm. Her door was open, I could hear her little brother Tommy walking around the kitchen, rustling in the fridge, breaking pieces of crusty Italian bread off the loaf in the crinkly white sleeve. My dad and step-mother were still asleep, I knew Tommy’d get in trouble later for pawing at the bread.
In the morning light she was never my wife. Lia sat up in her bed suddenly, pressing herself against the white wall, her large Jesus calendar hanging above her head. The month and dates were listed below a large print of Christ in a blue robe. At the center of his chest was a red heart surrounded by streaks of light pouring outward. There was a thin illuminated circle atop his head, and his large blue eyes peered knowingly out into the room. To me he looked compassionate.
“I don’t think we should do that anymore.”
“You know, it. God thinks it’s wrong.”
Lia was Roman Catholic, one hundred percent Sicilian. My dad liked to think we were, too. But in actuality, he was only about two thirds Sicilian, the other third made of German blood from his mother’s side. This was something he never liked to mention, however. He always told people he was Italian, one hundred percent. As a child he had gone to church, and as he never failed to remind me when the subject of religion did come up:
“I was an altar boy.”
We celebrated Christmas and Easter but didn’t go to church. When my parents divorced, my mother wanted to give me the option of choosing my own faith. She was spiritual and raised me with an idea of God, but didn’t have any particular reverence for organized religion. So Lia’s whole “God hates this” argument came across to me as ridiculous. I didn’t think God spent time worrying whether or not I kissed my step-sister.
“What? No he doesn’t.”
But I knew better than to try and touch her now. It’d probably take her about a week or so to get over this new found conviction.
Marissa Quenqua is a freelance writer, reader, and editor. She is a film reviewer for the film and media website Justpressplay.net and has a background in book publishing. She has been featured as the SMITH Magazine “Memoirist of the Day” and holds a degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in Brooklyn.