I wanted to be like the other Boston Market girls,

and maybe that’s why I kissed the Vietnamese boy
who worked in the kitchen. He tugged me into the walk-in freezer,
calling me baby, and I kissed him without thinking,
the way I did my job—quick, efficient, automatic.
He went back to the oven and I headed to the counter,
and whenever I saw him bringing out fresh mashed potatoes,
I was suddenly busy stacking plastic forks. I didn’t
kiss boys at work after that, not even the sandwich guy
who told me I was cute. I watched the other girls, and listened.
Before the dinner rush, we’d gather around the register to swap
details from the weekend, munching stolen cornbread
and pretending to scrub something, while whoever
had the latest news whispered it, bold: Leslie was dating
the chicken cutter when I started my job, then Vicki dated him,
Leslie again, then Jenn. Missy sucked the dishwasher’s dick
in the back office after closing. Nikki and our married manager
had a seven-month affair. I couldn’t get enough of their gossip.
This was before I’d touched a penis, so I asked them
questions that seemed sensible: Wouldn’t that feel weird?
Why would you want that in your mouth? You don’t remember
your first time? They looked at me blankly, surprised maybe
that they didn’t know. Then our boss sauntered up front
and we scattered to stir the creamed spinach,
empty the trash cans, or check the bathrooms, flirting
with kitchen boys and customers the way teenage girls do,
and with our bitten-off fingernails, tight jeans, and shiny hair,
we looked like the girl next door, we all looked the same.

:: Roxanne Halpine Ward, This Electric Glow (Seven Kitchens Press, 2012)

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