It was thirty years ago. I was thirteen. The jukebox was playing "Muskrat Love." He was wearing jeans, a black t-shirt, and a denim jacket covered with the signatures of teen-age girls. His hair was long, of course, black and hanging loose. He smelled like ironed cotton, cigarettes, and root beer.
I didn't have any romantic illusions about him being Mr. Right. Once in the spirit of getting to know him, I asked him what his favorite book was. He paused for a moment and said, "I don't think I've read a whole book."
At school, I was the smart girl. Even in ninth grade, everyone knew that I was going to be valedictorian. Everyone knew that I would get a scholarship, go to college and eventually grad school. He was a hood, a delinquent, a trouble-maker. Everyone knew that he would get sent to a detention center, and eventually prison. I was thirteen, and he was twelve. All of this was already decided.
But I wasn't thinking about any of that. It was my first kiss. I remember how his lips felt, warm and a bit hesitant, his tongue exploring my shyness. His hands kept tangling and untangling themselves in my waist-length hair. I knew from romantic novels that I was supposed to close my eyes but I was not prepared for the way that everything disappeared into this darkness. Even the clanging sound of the pinball machine went silent.
Nothing in the movies prepared me for the way my whole body would respond, energy tingling down under my shirt, shivering along underneath my skintight jeans until my whole self moved closer to this warm being. How conscious I was as each body part - arms, breasts, waist, hips, legs - came into contact with him, the energy intensifying every time I shifted closer.
When I opened my eyes again, I was startled that the room had not changed. Everything looked the same: the green felt on the pool tables, the lights hanging low above the bright-colored billiard balls, the men lounging with pool cues, the juke box machine glowing. The bored waitress had not shifted from her spot on the bar stool, except perhaps to stub her cigarette out in the ashtray.
It was just a kiss, really. It didn't last long. And yet, it was a discovery, a realization. I'd learned how to lose myself in something too big to name, discovering a place where time became irrelevant. I felt both powerful and powerless. I'd tasted feelings that could make the whole dim world around me disappear.