“The Birthday Present” by Megan Bracher

Step 1: Meet for lunch at an Olive Garden. He will point out your gait (you are apparently pigeon-toed, though no one has mentioned it until now) and slide the check to your side of the table. You will laugh excessively at jokes that are not especially funny and relay to your friends that you had a great time. 

Step 2: After he tells you he works out at the community recreation center, show up there. Daily. You will make sure to drink from the water fountain next to the window which overlooks the basketball court so that after several weeks, he will finally remember to ask you out again. 

Step 3: Meet for dinner at a Steak n’ Shake. He will again insist that you are pigeon-toed and make you walk up and down the aisles just to prove it. 

Step 4: Accept his invitation to cook dinner together at your house while your father is out of town for the weekend. 

Step 5: After you both have finished dinner, he will suggest that the couch would be more comfortable. You will pretend he means for television watching. 

Step 6: Omit this step, if possible, but it turns out it won’t be. 

Step 6 Revisited: He will kiss you. You will kiss him back. Then, much too soon, he will reach for your shirt. You will pull it down—he: back up. You will say, I’m not ready for this, and he will say, just this, just this. 

Step 7: You will protest your now bare chest by covering it with the beige and salmon floral pillow you stole from the armchair. 

Step 8: You will try persuasion. You will explain to him you’d like to wait. You will ask, Can’t we just make out? He will try persuasion of another sort. He will explain to you the male anatomy—some things that cannot be undone. He will say, inexplicably, Some guys would hit you right now. 

Step 9: You will say, Can we at least go upstairs then? 

Step 10: For a long time, you will carry that cross as if it means something. 

Step 11: He will tell you he needs a ride back and a kiss goodnight. You will give him both and cry the whole way home. 

Step 12: He will be your boyfriend after that.

Megan Bracher (she/her) is a writer and poet. Megan seeks to transform silence into healing, in her work and in her worlds. She is currently isolating in Cincinnati, Ohio with her partner and dog. You can follow her on Instagram @megsdoespoetry.