By: Erik Lewin
I don’t know when I realized I was old. Well, not a kid anymore. There is this Twilight Zone effect life has on you; one minute—no matter how hard you try—you’re destined to stay a little runt forever. And then you notice you’re nursing an enlarged belly and high cholesterol, rounding forty. Yet, time’s sorcery doesn’t stop there; its greatest trick on the mind and heart is the immediacy of memory. You can be decades later in life, punching a clock in some warehouse, and a trigger can stir a wave of emotion long since forgotten, and there you are.
The first time I kissed a girl with my tongue was in the eighth grade. It was right after the graduation party. For weeks, I’d been dating B. It really came about by total accident; some girl misoverheard me say I liked a different girl, and she thought I meant B. That was it. Word went out like mad, and somehow, as if by invisible hand, B and I were thrust together.
B was cute. I didn’t know her from Adam, but quickly found that I liked her. We went to Pizza & Brew one lazy Saturday near the end of the school year. There were no parents. I pulled cheese off my lip, barely holding it together, alone with her, that first-kiss scenario zigzagging around my mind.
My plan? Walk with B up and down the long stretch of alley behind the shopping center. For cover. For time. We held hands, her breath close, my throat tight. It was quiet and desolate along the alley. I thought, Forget Paris, who cares if there are smelly dumpsters? There were no people. I had all the space in the world to attempt this stunt. But it felt akin to mounting a motorbike and jumping through rings of fire. It was too much. I couldn’t even face her. If I could only look at her, I sensed, it’d be simple. But my guts gave out. Up and down that alley we went to nowhere.
Another day, she came by my house. After pleasantries with my mom, we took a long walk up and beyond the hill of my complex. Sound familiar? This time, it was less private, but that didn’t matter; by now, I was crazed with wanting to get through it, zap the fear out of it, cross safely to the other side. The night before, in bed, I dreamt how young tribal Indians, with nothing but a spear and a loincloth, made it back from the jungle to the welcome shore of adulthood. I wanted to kiss her mouth. To taste that. For it to happen. But you see, the mechanics of it all…another long walk, another opportunity wasted.
When I (with Mom) picked up B at her parents’ house for the graduation dance, she was a sight. The evening light fell on her long brown hair. She wore a dress with shoulders bare and her face shone with makeup. She stopped my heart. I felt abuzz.
We got to the dance and a friend of mine took one look at her, furtively pulled me aside, and hushed in my ear how lucky I was. That struck me. It rang true. I was lucky.
Good parents want to give you everything, but they can never give you this. A girl you are crazy about who wants you too. You have to figure all that out on your own. And the stakes get higher; with every last, dying gasp of childhood, curiosity and lust sharply intensify. So, to be a boy that girls want, who want your tongue in their mouths, and more, much more, well, it all begins with that first, elusive kiss.
B and I went to the dance after-party at a classmate’s house. Being at this after-party separated us from the herd. I knew it helped my chances considerably. I think B felt it too; after a little while hanging out with friends, we instinctively made our way for the front door. Right as we were about to step outside, this pretty girl I’d had a thing for earlier in the year showed up. She eyed B and I, and coolly informed us she had “let her boyfriend get to second base on her.”
Well, that was the last straw. I had been through torturous days at school, confused nights at home, bungled chances and near misses, and constant erections, my shameful reminder. My resolve hit the spurs. I took B by the hand, and we were out in the night, alone.
We snaked around this black, low-lit street for a short while. Then I stopped her, abruptly, and faced her. I looked at her. No hiding; I was all out there. She knew. Generations of Indian tribal boys knew. I may have put a hand on her hip or her hair. Then I leaned into the unknown.
Our mouths opened. Met. My tongue did something. Her teeth gnarled at mine. No teeth, I admonished. I persevered and she mimicked my horse-tongue’s wag. In the end, a true kiss. A cocktail of moistness and relief. And disbelief. I’m sure she felt it too.
I took her hand, confidently now, and we strode our way back to the house we came from, for one last look around.
* * *
My eyes opened when the phone rang. The office was quiet. I saw it was my colleague; we had a deadline. I didn’t answer.