February 14, 2005

First Kiss

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.


Scrivener said...

This post is really, really beautiful.

At the risk of saying a total "man thing," my first kiss wasn't anything like this at all, I barely remember it. I was about 13, and kissed a girl I was entirely uninterested in, wasn't dating, wasn't going to date, because she asked me to, though why she did so is too long a story to go into here.

bitchphd said...


I'm kind of in love with that boy now.

Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

My first kiss is even more of a "man thing", because I don't remember it *at all*. It was during a drunken blackout.

When I dropped out of high school, I had never been kissed, had sex or taken illegal drugs, although everyone assumed I did these things regularly. Within one month of dropping out, I had done all of them.

Dr. H said...

mmm... I love your writing, jo(e). Every visit to your blog is a treat for me.

dr. m(mmm) aka The Notorious P.H.D. said...

Jo(e), you have this amazing poetic-percpetual-memory-image-feeling machine rushing through all your experiences and writing about your experiences. I love it. You must be some sort of writing or literature professor :)

This is probably stupid, but thanks for sharing your age. I have a hard time guessing ages, I think because I don't have any kids. When you say you have a college-age daughter, my math makes you about 57, which is nothing like how a picture you (around 40). Now I understand better why I feel we have a lot in common.

For some reason, Muskrat Love has been overly present in my life the past few weeks.

Mel said...

beautiful post, especially the last paragraph...

jo(e) said...

dr. m – Yes, you’ve figured me out! In the fall I teach writing, and in the spring I teach literature.

I did put my age in deliberately because it occurred to me that some of the people reading my blog were confused about my age. I always forget that so many academic types wait until they are in their late thirties to have children. At conferences, people are almost always surprised when I mention a college-age daughter .... or that I have four kids.

But in my conservative home community, most women have children at very young ages. Some of the women I went to high school with have grandchildren already.

Oh, and thanks to all the commenters who say nice things about my writing. I really love the feedback. You’ve all made February much easier for me this year.

Anonymous said...

This was one of the best Valentine's Day posts that I read.


Anonymous said...

wow. i just found this on google.
sounds a bit like my first kiss,
this story took my breath away.