Hannah

On the pleasures of a queer childhood crush

Raina K. Puels
Jun 11, 2019 · 4 min read
Illustration by Kyle Griggs

HHannah and I meet the first day of eighth grade, our lockers alphabetically adjacent. We love eyeliner and Ellen Hopkins. We battle to attract Mrs. Finger’s attention in English class: gentle elbows to the ribs preventing the other from raising a hand. Hannah outscores me on the literature analyses, while I outscore her on the creative writing assignments.

SShe first invites me over on Halloween — junk food, scary movies. Her parents have kind faces and brown eyes like Hannah’s, but unlike her, they don’t wear glasses (hers are crooked from falling asleep reading so often). Star, a grey-and-black striped cat with a dark asterisk on his forehead, follows Hannah and me onto the couch in the TV room. Hannah says I smell like old candles, but in a good way. She smells like Pantene and something that makes me giddy. I don’t tell her that second part. The movie starts. I relish the feeling of her breath on my neck each time she collapses against me after the humans we’ve come to love outrun the groaning zombies.

AA Lutheran youth sleepover is not how a Jew like me would typically spend a Friday night, but I agree after Hannah promises no one is going to try and convert me. The church van takes a gaggle of us to play laser tag in a dark room devoid of the clinking change and pew-pew-pews of the surrounding arcade. Goddamnit! I say, the first person eliminated. The church group quiets and stares. Back against a sticky wall, I wait for my cheek-flush to recede, wait to lay my sleeping bag next to Hannah’s on the linoleum floor of the church’s basement and smell her hair as she drifts into dreams.

CCome spring, I giggle with new girlfriends at school. Hannah stops sitting next to me in Mrs. Finger’s class and slams her locker extra hard when I’m around. I don’t call or text her. By summer, we stop talking altogether. In fact, we don’t speak for all four years of high school — despite the proximity of our lockers. I can always smell her floral shampoo when she passes me in the hallway.

HHer parents open the door. Vampires. No sign of aging in the last ten years. Star looks as if he’s seen a ghost and runs away. I feel like a ghost mounting the stairs to her bedroom. Nothing remains except the piles of books. So many books. We’ve both chopped off our hair and pierced our septums. Her glasses are still crooked. We’re wearing nearly identical outfits: Doc Martens, black jeans, and sleeveless shirts buttoned to the neck. I ask: Were you going for, “I’m queer but I still have sex with men?” She laughs: How could you tell?

II pick up three more old friends and bring them back to my mom’s house. We drink gimlets by the fireplace before our Five Year High School Reunion. I sit next to Hannah, sip her still giddying smell. We compare notes on grad school: classic literature and creative writing, respectively. Other voices fill the room. Tipsy-confident, I ask: Hannah, why did we stop being friends? She smiles. I had a crush on you and didn’t like that you made new friends. I shut you out instead of talking to you about it. Typical pubescent behavior. I tell her I had a crush on her, too, and we laugh about our adolescent naïveté.

AtAt the reunion, I lose Hannah in the bar. Then I see her pressed against a wall, kissing a guy I don’t know. Hours pass — small talk, rosé, dancing. When I’m about to leave, she taps me on the shoulder: We should probably make out for our thirteen-year-old selves, right? There’s too much teeth and her lips don’t fit mine the way I want, but it still feels right. Even more right when she slides her thigh between my legs and we grind to some awful pop song in the same room as the balding prom king and the girl no one recognized because she’s way hotter than she used to be. Then it’s all over and Hannah leaves with the rando and I return to my childhood bed and masturbate about her like I did when I was thirteen, but now I don’t have to imagine the taste of her lips.

Gay Mag

A new magazine from Roxane Gay offering some of the most…

Raina K. Puels

Written by

Gay Mag

Gay Mag

A new magazine from Roxane Gay offering some of the most interesting and thoughtful cultural criticism to be found on the Web. Our first quarterly is coming in June 2019. We value deep explorations, timelessness, and challenging conventional thinking without being cheap and lazy.

Raina K. Puels

Written by

Gay Mag

Gay Mag

A new magazine from Roxane Gay offering some of the most interesting and thoughtful cultural criticism to be found on the Web. Our first quarterly is coming in June 2019. We value deep explorations, timelessness, and challenging conventional thinking without being cheap and lazy.

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