First Love

The D’Amatas wanted a wake for their little boy at my uncle’s restaurant. I’d worked there since my uncle complained he couldn’t keep the college girls. At sixteen I’d thought, my big break. My next big break was getting pregnant with twins. What kind of teen has twins? Cut to me and them, a Ford Explorer with the odometer counting backward, a kitten who turned into a killer, songbird graveyard under the mulberry tree.

I took some courses and moved into accounts, and flowers. Didn’t mind running plates of food when we got slammed on a Saturday, if, I said, I could wear my own clothes. What a flirt, said my uncle approvingly. Oftentimes I knew the ladies who came in, still as tight as they were in high school. Shelby Consiglio was one, her shop now was “Consign with Consiglio” on River St., a whole bunch of senior center acrylic paintings if you ask me, and it was her accompanying Lee Ann D’Amata, asking my uncle what types of sauce. The little boy was hit by a car so I knew my own kids were safe from a dog’s death. It would be stupid not to use a gift like that. I let them draw four-squares right in the middle of our avenue. Nothing out of me when they skidded off the curb ruining their shoes. Jesus went barefoot. I said, Go ahead, walk a mile to the package store for those silver balloons of potato chips, spend your money on air. Buck your broncos around the superstore parking lot. I said, You two are free since that little D’Amata died for your sins, and they thought I was talking church at them.

The first boy I ever kissed was Joseph D’Amata, the dead boy’s dad. Long arms, long, raw neck, sandpaper goosebumps. Three moles like river muck splattered on his right cheek, and what gets me now, what kills me, is that he went about his baseball life, chased by girls such as me in the neighborhood, he slid his bony butt under his school desk, just like a lobster tail, all that without sadness. All that with no knowledge of what was to come. Doesn’t it seem like the one courtesy Jesus could offer, with those huge grave eyes, would be to spare the innocent? It may sound like church to you, but I am speaking of Joseph D’Amata. We kissed like frogs, our mouths wide and our privates pounding. We wondered if we looked right doing it, if a car passed by and swept us in its headlights, could we be taken for a movie scene? Then my mouth and jaw started aching, like chewing gum too long, or having to smile all through a meal with relatives.

My old uncle looked beat to shit coming out of his office behind Shelby and Lee Ann. He paused to cup me. I shook him off. Why did he always have to do that?

Kirstin Allio is the author of the novels Buddhism for Western Children (University of Iowa Press, 2018) and Garner (Coffee House Press, 2005), and the short story collection Clothed, Female Figure (Dzanc, 2016). She has received fellowships from Brown University’s Howard Foundation and MacDowell. She lives in Providence, RI. Visit her website at https://www.kirstinallio.com