A Cure for Desire
Kate Hall

Rachel's brother is tipping me back in her arms, trying to make our lips touch. He says we were made to be like this, "lesbians," he calls it -- he found us in her room two nights ago rubbing against each other like sticks. The truth is, Rachel's brother would rather we be doing what it is we're doing with each other with him, preparing the parts of us that would allow him in. He threatens to tell Rachel's mother what it is he's caught us doing, but says if we will practice on him rather than on each other, he won't tell anyone. That is how it starts, Rachel going down on her brother one night, me going down on him the next, until our mouths are stretched and sore and Rachel's mother says we are coming down with the flu. She makes us soup and flat soda and lets us watch television all day, but whatever it is that we have is not allowing us to laugh or tell jokes. At school the next day, when Rachel's mother says we are well enough to go, we sit by ourselves at lunch instead of with the other girls and, when it is time to go home, we hide in the woods behind the football field. Rachel's father calls the police and they come looking for us. "Who did this to you?" They ask when they see we are bleeding underneath our skirts. The sticks we did it with are buried somewhere beneath us, the red guilt seeping through the earth so that the backs of our dresses will be stained when our mothers go to clean them later. Fourteen neighborhood men spend two days looking for the man who did this to us, and at the end of the two days, they sit in the civic center, the table littered with half-eaten donuts and cups of old coffee, looking at how beautiful the town looks out the windows. They are thinking about their own daughters, how a man is waiting for each one of them. There is the threat of whoever did this to us on their hands, but there is also the dawning of a set of Saturdays when they will wait up for their daughters to arrive home, swollen on hormones and lack of sleep, their mouths smeared from kissing. One or two of the men on tonight's neighborhood watch will lie his daughter down years from now, will place her on her bed and pull the magnets that are her legs apart to reveal that same smear somewhere else on the map of her body, that part men like to kiss until it loosens and opens like a jar you have been working at. One of these two civic fathers will put his own mouth to that pulsing place, will try and cure her desire by going over and over the origin of her name. "Promiscuity is a place to put your longing," he will tell her, saying "Abigail" softly into her until the clock of her youth has stopped so her father, on his knees before her and God, is the last man she will trust.