NDJ:3 Fedwa Malti-Douglas

hidden desire

we sit on the stone bench
in the entry to my family’s home
we lean against the wall
the wall of my father’s medical clinic
a floor below
it seems somehow appropriate
to have the medical locus
looking over our back
we unbutton our school uniforms
the summer ones blue-and-white checks
i touch her breasts
she touches mine
there is no doubt
mine are bigger
we repeat the exercise
furtively
if my father were to see me
he would surely beat me
but we see this as a purely scientific experiment
or is there some erotic exchange
whose breasts are developing faster
i outdid my friends’ body
and continued to do so at thirteen,
i come to america at thirteen, my friend is about to be married
we have lost touch
all girls checked their breasts
and those of their friends
as i grow older i grow bolder
i ask american friends
no, they answer with shock
they never explored one another’s bodies
is this a cultural difference
that my childhood friend and i
were locked up in a convent
that our erotic desires
could only be expressed with women
boys were inaccessible
we only had ourselves
i will never forget marie
she taught me the beauty of bodies
she taught me not to be ashamed
of curiosity
or dare i say
of desire