Author’s note: read this out loud.
No means nothing if I speak tentatively, my words drowned under the rush of whatever liquid you poured into a red cup and muted under the tireless whir of your overhead fan and the squeak-squeak-squeak of the springs that support your bed.
No means nothing if my temples throb and my too-tight skirt skates the smooth skin between my thighs and my hips like an invitation to say “hello” — a greeting that you forgo to, instead, rip words from my lips into shreds I cannot piece back together.
No means nothing even when I whip my head away from yours, and the salt you taste comes only from my brackish cheeks.
No means nothing especially when you clamp your hand over my mouth so the only screeches your roommates hear come from the tires of cars that pass in front of your bedroom window and cast a red, unforgiving glow onto your face.
No means nothing.
No means nothing, though I want to vanish from this room, this bed, this grasp — leaving no trace of my perfume and no errant streaks of my make-up on your pillow.
No means nothing when I am me, and you are you, and our bodies — slick with sweat and impunity — are no more indication of who we are and no more indication of what we want than what we represent.
No means nothing because yesterday, I was the girl who sat behind you in class, and tomorrow, my words will fall upon ears deafer than yours, but today, I am flaming flesh underneath your fingers — yours to salve, yours to soothe, yours to bring close to your mouth and blow out.
No means nothing because what is yours is not mine but what is mine is yours. My “yes” and my “no” and “please, God, don’t” are yours to pull apart like the buttons that tear from the front of my blouse with a single tug because no means nothing.
No, no, no.
I said no, but no means nothing.