Errant Nostalgia – Part 1

I got checked out on the Metro this morning by a very attractive young woman. It was thoroughly disappointing.

The whole thing was like a ride-long rendition of the elevator scene from Before Sunrise – two people stealing quick glances at one another, avoiding detection, drinking in something bigger than the mere composite parts and pieces and scents standing just to their side. To be honest, I couldn’t tell you at first what compelled the behavior on my part. But as the train ride pushed on, it occurred to me in a flash, a more daring glance – she looked just like Michele.

I haven’t seen Michele in 16 years.

Michele was my first kiss.

I should correct that. My first kiss was Tara. It was as awkward and strained and uncomfortable a first kiss as you could imagine. I was 13, hanging with some friends at the movies. They were the kids who pushed through the discomfort of burgeoning sexuality to prove their maturity. One boy in the group, Brian, had lost his virginity at 12. True story. Me, though – I was a bumbling idiot of a boy, with no charm for the opposite sex. My best move was to stand awkwardly in the corner with my head low, avoiding eye contact and blushing when certain girls walked by, close enough to smell their shampoo.

Christ, that’s still my best move.

During the movie, I sat about 4 seats down from Tara, a girl in our group. She was generally pretty shy, but tonight was the center of the girls’ attention, as evidenced by the non-stop crouching and whispering during the movie. Also the giggling. Lots of giggling. It even seemed to be in my direction, but at 13 (and 31) I often feel like the giggling is likely about me. So afterward, I was quite a bit shocked when Brian took me aside and told me that Tara wanted to make out with me.

Tara and I take hands, walk behind the theater. Up until this point in the evening, we hadn’t talked. As we walk hand-in-hand, that silence dominates. The alley to the back of the theater is lit in bright pockets of light, shadow encompassing everything else, like a 1940s detective movie. I wouldn’t have been surprised if a cat knocked over a trash can, mreowed, then bolted across our path.

It was clearly a very romantic thing.

Long story short, we got to the back of the theater, and we started to kiss. Then Tara smiled, bright and beaming, with her mouth and with her eyes, and all of the discomfort was gone. We kissed once more and then held hands and actually talked as we walked back to our friends. She even laughed at my intentional jokes, which I found perplexing. We held hands until her parents picked her up, and she told me to call her tomorrow. And I was glowing or floating or some other silly metaphor for feeling genuine youthful affection.

I didn’t hear from Tara the rest of the weekend.

On Monday, when I got to school, the rumors were already flying. Apparently, I am a sloppy kisser. I use too much tongue. I am a bad kisser, and now everyone in the school knows. Which would have been fine, except that every time I ran into Brian and the rest of the guys form that group, they stuck out their tongues at me, wiggling them around like worms in apples, and made noises similar to “MMMMMMWWWWWWWWMMMMMMMMMMM!” It really is not a noise you want to hear aimed in the direction of your self-esteem. Especially not in Gym Class, in front of all of the girls who, in turn, whisper to one another and giggle. I’m fairly certain the giggling was aimed at me.

But that was Tara. That was technically my first kiss.

But Michele is the one I will always count as my real first kiss. Something genuine. Something born from, not just leading to, a real affection. Something that came as the result of genuinely liking someone. Something more than just peer pressure or sexual attraction.

Michele was the first girl I ever really liked.

Michele was the first girl who ever actually liked me.

(To be continued in Part 2)

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