Thursday, March 15, 2007

My First Kiss

My first kiss was on Valentine’s Day 1978. I wasn’t expecting it. The girl I kissed-- the girl who kissed me -- had blonde hair, and everyone thought she had blue eyes but they were really grey. And when she smiled, she had only one dimple, on the left side of her face. I was in 8th grade. She was in 7th. She wore Babe perfume. I wasn’t expecting it because such a thing was expressely forbidden by the laws of the universe: it is written that dorky guys in the math club, the first guy tagged in Dodge ball, just don’t get kissed by cheerleaders.

February 14 was the night of the last game for our 8th grade basketball team. We were a poor Catholic school, so baskteball was our main sport. Basketball was our only sport. Most of our school, Sacred Heart, was in the bleachers of our rival Christ the King, there to cheer our boys on. I was there in an official capacity, as a reporter for the school newspaper. Assigning me to cover a basketball game made as much sense as having priests give marriage advice. I spent the entire first inning of the game wondering which player was the quarterback.

Actually, I had gone to the basketball game at the school gym because I knew she’d be there. At half time, after her cheerleading routine was over, I emerged from the crowd like a lone-nut assassin. I pushed a hastily executed Valentine card into her hands, and dissolved back into the mass of students just as my body surrendered to hyperventilation and tachycardia. After the game, she found me, (which wasn’t too hard as I just happened to be standing right outside the cheerleader’s changing room), and asked if I would walk her home. I had just handed her a valentine card and now she wanted me to walk her home? This relationship was moving much too quickly for me. I was trying to think of a way to say no when she smiled at me, and when I saw she had only one dimple, I said sure.

She had changed into the off-duty uniform of 8th grade Catholic girls in 1978 -- a beige down vest, a brown turtleneck sweater and tight Jordache jeans tucked into high-heeled cowboy boots. There was a small party after the game in the church basement, and I went over to the food table and got myself a homemade brownie, the kind with a perfectly shelled half walnut sitting on top. I wrapped the brownie in a napkin and sat against the back wall on a tiny sofa, really a loveseat, that someone had donated to the church.

A few seconds later, she sat next to me. She said ‘Hi’. I said “Hi”. She asked what I had in my hand. I unwrapped it said “A brownie”. Then she went to work. She leaned over me, letting her newly acquired breasts brush against my arm. She then reached out an elegant thumb and forefinger, and deftly plucked the walnut off the top of my brownie. She extended her tongue, placed the walnut on her tongue as reverently as she would a communion wafer, and oh so gracefully curled her tongue back into her mouth. Now this is a smooth move for anyone, let alone a 13 year old cheerleader. I knew what I had to do. I turned to her and said “OH, DO YOU WANT A BROWNIE HERE YOU CAN HAVE MY BROWNIE I’LL GO GET ANOTHER ONE I’LL BE RIGHT BACK YOU STAY HERE.”

I left her sitting there with a brownie she didn’t want as I went to the food table to snag another one. I returned and sat down next to her. While I was gone she had somehow managed to ditch her brownie. It’s now take two. Managing to make her actions seem as spontaneous as they did the first time, she leaned over me and plucked the walnut off my new brownie. This time I got the hint. “OH, YOU JUST WANT THE WALNUTS I SAW SOME IN A BOWL I’LL SEE IF I CAN GET SOME I’LL BE RIGHT BACK YOU STAY HERE.” Don’t ask me why, but when I returned to the loveseat with a bowl of mixed nuts, she was waiting for me. We talked and ate cashews for the rest of the night.

The party ended, as parties did in those days, when a priest came down into the basement and said “Okay, kids, that’s all she wrote! You need to have your parents pick you up, get to the phone. Let’s go!” She grabbed my hand, looked into my eyes, and said “Will you walk me home? I don’t want to call my dad.”

We bundled up and walked out into the February night.It was about 20 degrees that night. It had snowed earlier in the day, and the snow crunched like Wheaties as we walked oh so slowly down the hill to her house. We walked for a few feet without saying anything, then she asked why the snow sounded so high-pitched. I told her “THAT’S BECAUSE AS THE TEMPERATURE GETS COLDER THE DENDRITES OF THE SNOWFLAKES GET DRIER SO THEY VIBRATE WITH A HIGHER PITCH..” on and on for two whole blocks as we walked to her house. Then we stood there. For nearly an hour we fought off frostbite, rocking from side to side as we stood in her driveway and talked. I can’t remember now, ‘cause I probably didn’t register then, what we talked about.

Before long, the church carillon chimed 10PM. Her father had been discreetly watching us from the living room, and at this point he decided that enough was enough. He came out of the house to clear his throat on the front porch. I realize now that it was the fatherly equivalent of saying “Why don’t you kiss her instead of talking her to death,” but back then I was just petrified he was going to hurt me.

I was about to say goodbye and walk away, but thank goodness girls mature earlier than boys. Accepting her father’s gesture for the hint it was, she took a step toward me. I was enveloped in Babe. She was a head shorter than me, so she grabbed the back of my neck, pulled my head down to hers, and kissed me. I was so startled I didn’t even pucker. It was a tooth-on-tooth kiss. Her braces were rubbing against my incisors, making a tiny fingernails-on-the-blackboard scrape that I felt rather than heard. I inhaled so much Babe my nose was burning. She broke the kiss, smiled at me with that one dimple, and ran inside.

I really don’t remember anything after that. I somehow made it home, without leaving any tracks in the snow.

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