We sat in the corner of the sandbox, hidden by the shadow of the tall red brick walls that stood behind us. The Florida sun beat down on our foreheads as we laid our heads on a black garbage bag full of sandbox toys, our backs on the dirty white sand.
“How was your day at work, dear?” I asked, turning my head upon what felt like a plastic sand bucket underneath the sticky garbage bag so that he and I were face to face.
“Good. Busy,” my kindergarten classmate, Michael, responded, following up with a tight-lipped peck on my lips. We knew we weren’t really supposed to kiss, but children tend to imitate their parents’ behavior. If our parents did it, why couldn’t we?
When we played house, Michael was the dad and I was the mom. He would pretend to come home from work and walk through the imaginary front door of our elementary school sandbox and say, “Okay, let’s go to bed!” So we made our way to the bag of toys that no one ever played with, not caring about the sand we got all over our clothes, and we’d lie there under that hot sun, kissing in the corner of the sandbox.
I had butterflies in my stomach when I saw Kevin sitting on the curb in front of the theater, his dark hair cupping his head in a bowl cut, his glasses reflecting what little sunlight escaped from between the gray Wisconsin clouds. Maggie, my seventh-grade best friend, and I ducked our way out of my mom’s two-door Cavalier and slowly made our way toward Kevin and his friend Brian, Maggie’s boyfriend.
“But what do I do if he doesn’t kiss me or even want to?” I asked her, looking up at my friend through the glasses that covered half of my face as we walked through the parking lot. Maggie had always been the prettier one of us, standing 5’5″, with dirty blond hair and big green eyes. Because of her experience with so many boys and the fact that she was one of the only girls in seventh grade with boobs, I always looked to her for boy advice.
“Don’t worry. In the middle of the movie you lean forward and tell Brian to kiss me if he hasn’t yet, and then I’ll lean behind you and tell Kevin to kiss you,” she responded. I looked back toward Kevin and smiled as he stood up to take my hand and lead me into the movie theater.
The tickets for Virus had been bought, snacks had been distributed, seats had been carefully chosen to help us carry out our plan, and the middle of the movie was slowly creeping up on me. I saw Maggie getting ready to lean over to say something in my ear. Jamie Lee Curtis was becoming suspicious of some kind of robot force killing people on her spaceship and I was dreading what Maggie was planning to say to me. She leaned over and whispered,
“Ready? Okay, go.”
Quickly, I moved forward to whisper to Brian on the other side of Maggie, “Hey, you should kiss Maggie.” And I felt Maggie’s hand on my back as she leaned over to Kevin to tell him to kiss me. As soon as I sat back, stiff in my chair, I looked sideways at Kevin and realized he was staring at me. I turned my head, looked down at his smooth lips, sucked up my courage, and planted a big wet kiss on his lips. My first real kiss was far from perfect, and I was glad when it was over. After a quick moment, I sat back in my seat, knowing that Kevin was still looking at me. I pretended to be interested in the movie while my heart fluttered frantically.
I had always been a little grossed out when I saw movies of people French kissing. Maybe I was being a typical thirteen-year-old or maybe my knowledge of normal sexual behavior wasn’t up to par. Wouldn’t you get spit all over your face? What if one of you accidentally drooled? And how did you get your faces not to look so weird when it seemed as if people were trying to swallow each other’s heads? It was a mystery to me, but one that was solved when I met Matt in eighth grade.
Maggie, once again, was two steps ahead of me in the dating game. While Matt and I sat on his tacky yellow couch covered in brown and purple flowers, Maggie straddled her boyfriend, Tucker, in a nearby brown corduroy recliner, making out with him. On one occasion, Maggie took a breather and turned around to look at Matt and me as we sat on the couch, his arm around my shoulders, me leaning against him, embracing my legs with my arms. She asked, “Why don’t you guys ever make out?” I was mortified and instead of looking at Matt to hear his response, I stared back at the skateboard show we were watching on TV, feeling my face turn bright red.
A few weeks later, I found myself lying in a bottom bunk bed with Matt. My mom was working late that night, and Maggie and her boyfriend had claimed the top bunk. Matt just laid there as I played with his spiky black hair, neither of us really knowing what we were supposed to be doing. All we could hear was Maggie and Tucker making their uncomfortable and unattractive kissing noises as pieces of clothing dripped down the side of the bed. First a shirt, then another, then a bra. I panicked. I hoped that Matt wasn’t expecting me to take off my bra, let alone my shirt, but I had to stop being chicken, I thought to myself. I had to prove to Maggie that I was as daring as she was. Matt might tell his friends that I was a boring girlfriend.
I shifted around to my side, halfway on top of Matt, leaning over his face. His eyes got big as I moved closer to him, his heart pounding beneath my body weight. I closed my eyes and moved my lips slowly toward his. He lay there, unmoving, and our lips met. A feeling of relief came over me as I made contact with the warm smoothness of his mouth, but I had to pause for a moment. What do I do now? How do I start a French kiss? But it was only a brief moment later that Matt peeked his tongue out from between the fleshy cliffs of his face and brushed my upper lip with a cold wetness. Slowly I let my lips part and allowed his tongue access to my mouth. I admit it was no Elizabeth-Taylor-meets-Richard-Burton-kiss as we moved our heads from side to side, but luckily we didn’t drool all over each other.
It had already been an awkward evening, especially the part where my date, Josh, decided to sit on the other side of the room from me while we watched a movie in his dark basement. My friends had pushed me into going on a date with him and while he was cute with his dark brown hair, killer tan, and little rectangle glasses, the only thing that really intrigued me about him was his artwork.
He drove me back to my house in his green Jetta as soon as the movie was over. I was tired, I told him. It was my first real date since moving to a different school, so I didn’t know what expectations the boys in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania had for first dates. He parked in my driveway, which was surprising because I had always just been dropped off in front of my house. But Josh was a gentleman and said that he would walk me to my door. As nicely as possible I said, “You don’t have to. I’m going through the garage door anyway.” It was only a few extra feet from where we stood, and I knew that I wouldn’t to go on another date with Josh He just wasn’t my type, but I didn’t want to be rude and just leave him standing out in the cold with a casual goodbye, so I stepped toward him and gave him a hug, but when I pulled back to look up into his face to thank him, my arms still wrapped around his waist, he leaned down and gave me a quick peck on the lips.
I was surprised. Josh quickly tried to make up for his apparently unwelcome move by giving me a hug, but the hug never quite made it to a comfortable embrace. Instead, his left cheek glued itself to my right cheek and we just stayed there, wrapped in an awkward hug, with our faces pressed against each other’s. After our embarrassing interaction, I waved goodbye as I stepped inside my house.
I had just fallen off the couch in my drunken stupor. My friend Sara was pissed at me because I’d knocked over a bottle of beer on my way down and it spilled onto her white carpet.
“Just use bleach,” I slurred. Sara’s parents had gone out of town for the weekend, so she’d decided to have a little get-together at her house. It was the first time I had been drunk without my parents’ supervision and I was obviously not handling it very well.
“All right, Darah, why don’t we just go in the other room,” said Taylor, a guy I was casually seeing at the time. While Sara continued to complain about the mess, Taylor picked me up from the floor and carried me into another room. He sat on the couch with me across his lap. I felt like a small child, a drunk small child actually, and he let me rest my head on his shoulder. I remember his curly brown hair smelled like pot.
I was so excited to be lying in his arms. He looked down at my face; my eyes slit from the drowsy effects of alcohol, leaned his head forward, and gave me a kiss. I could only lie there because intoxication had relaxed my body completely. I couldn’t even return his kiss. I licked my lips and tried to lift up my head, but gravity had a way of pulling my head back down. I smiled, eyes halfway closed. He laughed at me and propped my drooping head back onto his shoulder.
“You・fre so sweet,” I said and patted my hands against his whiskered cheeks, not knowing that I was slapping more than patting. Then I let them drop onto his chest as he held me while I slept.
We decided on Mystic River, a good choice because it wasn’t romantic or sexual so I had no reason to feel awkward. Adam sat next to me on the green couch in my basement, his arm around my neck and my head resting on his muscular shoulder. My pink shirt scooped under my neck and the occasional brush of his thumb against my clavicle sent a chill down my spine. I always felt comfortable in Adam’s company, but our intimacy was minimal. I wasn’t sure if I loved him enough to get that close to him. He got irritated by my lack of closeness, but I was already satisfied with our relationship. Why did I need more if I was already happy? We shared a few pecks on the lips once in a while, but that, holding hands, and my sitting on his lap every so often out in public was the extent of our physical contact.
So there we were, my head resting on his shoulder as I slowly fell asleep during the movie, feeling him move his fingers across my shoulder, up my neck and over my cheek. Adam had been waiting for this moment, but I dreaded allowing myself to become completely vulnerable to him. I opened my eyes and looked up at him. He flexed his neck and leaned forward to give me a kiss. I moved my head away before he made contact and continued to watch the movie. I couldn’t give him the kiss he’d been waiting for.
Every morning, I woke up to the Romanesque structure of his face. His broad forehead, sculpted jaw line, and sunlit cream skin filled me with a sense of happiness that I had never felt before. I didn’t want to ever be any farther from Jake than I was at the moment, leaning over his sleeping face, moving my hand through his mousy brown hair. I crossed my legs over his and nuzzled my cold feet between his socked ones; both of us underneath my white down comforter, then situated myself comfortably with my head against his bare chest to hear his heart beat.
Every kiss meant something. I kissed his eyelids and the graze of my lips whispered a soft “I love you” into his thoughts. I kissed his nose, then his chin, his forehead, and those kisses professed my love with every inch of my body with only the slightest contact of skin. And I thought to myself that all of those kisses, any boy before this one, never allowed me to indulge in the most romantic of moments because my moment was in this one. I looked at Jake, seeing that he was now awake, and I moved my head to the pillow and rested my face across from his. He looked at me with his blue eyes and smiled, and with a slight lift of my chin, we kissed. A real Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton kiss.