For Sale, Jess Mezzi
In Spanish, the word for “moon” and “sun” are feminine and masculine, respectively. My mother told me it was because the moon represents women and the sun represents men.
“Women,” she said, “are supposed to be mysterious. They change. They’re deep and emotional.”
And I loved that comparison. At night, I stared up at the moon, admiring it. There’s something entrancing about it. It has an ethereal glow to it, its bright face staring out at the world with some sort of beautiful wisdom.
Who stares at the sun? It’s brash, it’s harsh, it’s obvious. There’s nothing to wonder about. It beats down on you, it burns you.
How perfect, I thought, to have been born a woman. Lovely like the moon.
The girls at my school referred to sex as “making love.” It always confused me. How does one make love? It seems like love is either there or it isn’t. You can’t touch it. You can’t sculpt it. You can’t mix things together and create it. There’s no recipe, no instruction manual. How does having sex make love?
But when they called it that, I didn’t say any of this. I called it that too. That’s what was written in the script, and if you want people to leave you alone, it’s best to just say your assigned lines.
He was a sweet boy that I had been going out with for two years, but we had known each other since third grade. His hair had gotten darker since then, but his eyes stayed the same. They were a steadfast green, bright and loyal. They gazed down at me with more love than I thought I could ever match. My mother said that you shouldn’t make love before you’re joined by love. Married. I was fifteen and that was a long ways away. He looked at me with those sweet green eyes and I didn’t want to wait.
Afterward I looked around the room for the love we had supposedly made, but there was none. The old love, the love of his eyes, his love for me, mine for him, all of that had remained. It wasn’t bigger or more powerful, just steady.
The more times it happened, the more ridiculous the phrase “making love” seemed to me. Nothing had been created by our actions. It was not a monumental event. It was fun, it was good, it was nice, but in the end, it was nothing more than sex. It was wonderful, but it did not shatter my world.
When he told me his family was moving, I cried. He pulled me in and I leaned against his chest, sniffing in his scent like I was huffing paint, like if I breathed in enough it would settle into my lungs and I wouldn’t have to be without it.
The appearance of the moon is mutable, ever-changing. Sometimes the moon is so black it cannot be seen and sometimes it has enough brightness that you can go outside without a flashlight. It wanes and waxes, fades and returns.
When the moon is full, people fall in love with it.
“Did you see the moon last night? It was beautiful.”
It’s beautiful. Look at it. They always tell you to look at it, but they never say it made them feel warm.
The Bible, being as tactful as possible, will sometimes say that “a man lie with a woman.” Funny how frat boys say similarly, “I got laid.”
But who lies? Who is laid? Does one lie while the other lays? In any case, more is (or should be) happening than lying and laying. It’s not very accurate.
He was my first but not my only. I loved him and I missed him, but that was not enough. Perhaps if we were older, we could have done it, but those six hundred miles were just too much.
The sex was good, and I had liked it. When it was gone, I missed it. It did not seem like the kind of thing to agonize over, the kind of thing worthy of a pros and cons list. It was something I wanted and something I could get. So I did.
I want to be clear. I was not standing on a street corner with a sign that said “fuck me.” I refused advances; I was not open to everyone. I was not some cat in heat, accepting anyone I could because of some primal need.
But if someone wanted me, and I wanted them, I said yes. Always at their house, so that my mother would not see. Always with a condom, so that nothing unexpected happened. Only and always when I wanted to.
The problem lies in basic astronomy. Really, the moon is just a satellite. It is a body that spins around a planet. It whirls around, flitting through space, dependent. A sun is a star. It is steady, unwavering, unmoving. It pulls object in, pulls others towards it because of its gravitational attraction. It is the center of our solar system, the axle around which the planets revolve.
The moon is flighty.
Romance novels sometimes try to make it sound like some sort of sacrifice.
“I gave myself to him.”
But that isn’t right. I didn’t give anything to anyone. Or if I did, it wasn’t anything that they didn’t give me in return.
It’s kind of funny, in a way. The haughty stares from other girls, their judgmental eyes snaking over to me. Their insults thinly disguised by coughs. Slut. Their whispers frosting across the hallway, settling on me like ice. Their heads held high. They would never dream of such a thing. What little respect I must have for myself, to do something like that, to give away my body for a few tokens of affection, like a stuffed animal at a carnival. Cheap. They had won me. I let them win, let them in.
What were these girls’ bodies? They were millionaires’ houses, they were gold-flake vodka, they were the latest model of Bugatti. They stared down at me, down at my earthly cheapness. My frailty. My weakness.
And the boys. Tongues that snaked out, slinking across their lips. Air kisses like darts, like stinging nettles, like fire ants. Lewd gestures, lust-filled stares.
But it’s funny. It really is. Because even though I was treated as a pest, a fly to be swatted at with loud whispers and licentious eyes, I don’t remember anyone ever doing the same to any of the boys. Oh no, not them. They were treated like the family dog. The girls who had so long ignored them now fed them table scraps of attention and the other boys welcomed them into the fray. They were brought in while I was cast out. Funny.
The sun gives us light, heat, and life. It allows for plants to grow, it keeps our bodies at a sustainable temperature. It is the linchpin of existence. When the sun burns out, we will burn out with it.
The moon produces no light. It is just rock. It merely reflects the sun’s light. It makes nothing on its own; it simply borrows. Without the sun, the moon would become invisible.
“Coitus,” “copulation,” and “intercourse.”
Let’s not be ridiculous. This isn’t a laboratory. We don’t need microscopes or goggles, and when the lights are off and the heat is rushing through my veins, I don’t really care what the evolutionary purpose for it is. I am not thinking about genetic recombination. I am not being studied. I am doing. I am feeling. I am being.
The hisses, the whispers, they were like papercuts: practically insignificant except for the hurt they leave you with. Sometimes I returned home with my skin cut so badly I cried. I stared in the mirror and I saw those blue eyes and I wondered how anyone could say blue was the color of sincerity. I had been reckless, and flighty. That’s what they told me. That’s what was true, wasn’t it?
I wondered if the boys ever thought that about themselves. Did they stare at their reflection and see it painted over with comments? Eyes distorted, lips aggressively inviting? Did they clench their hands in a fist sometimes for no reason? Did they lie in their bed and think of all the beds they’ve laid in before? Speculated as to where the tipping point was between a good amount and too many? I did.
But sometimes I looked at the mirror and something else happened. Sometimes I saw my lips curl up at the edges. I stared into my own eyes and I found depth that had been somehow overlooked by everyone. I saw my body, saw it wrapped up in clothes, saw it without them, and I saw that it was not dirty, it was not spoiled, it was not ruined. I saw myself and I ignored the papercut comments because they hurt but I would not let them leave scars.
I don’t want to be the moon.
Pale, frigid. It dances around the earth, begging for attention. Maybe we look sometimes, maybe we admire it. But when they say the sun and the moon are twins, they’re lying. They’ve never been twins.
I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to twirl around. I’m not going to show a pretty face while darkness lies just beyond that façade. I am not here to be stared at. I won’t take their light because I make my own. I don’t belong up in the sky because I’m right here. I’m here on this earth.
Maybe that’s why some people just say “We did it.” Crude? Perhaps a bit. But no one questions what you mean. There is no ridiculous poetry surrounding the words. There is no unnecessary tact. No undue sacrifice. I think my favorite part is the “we.”
The easy thing to do, I suppose, would have been to stop. I could have switched schools. I could have begun again as a new petal, just then being exposed to the world. I could have let my ice-blue eyes sink to the ground, could have tsked at the inappropriate jokes I overheard. I could have lifted my chin in the air and said, “Making love” to my boyfriend, correcting his dirty way of speaking, tossing my hair to show everyone I am classy. I could have.
But I didn’t.
I am a woman, but I am no moon.
About the Author
Johanna Schmidt · University of Minnesota
Johanna Schmidt is a senior Sociology and Spanish student at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities. “Celestial” first appeared in The Tower.
About the Artist
Jess Mezzie · University of Californa
Jess Mezzie is a student at the University of California. “For Sale” first appeared in Matchbox Magazine.