My brothers decided to have their friend, John Graham, over to spend the night. I was 12 or 13, and he was my first crush. They spent all afternoon in the back yard, and after supper they slunk to my brothers’ bedroom to guffaw and make rude noises. Nasty, mouth-covering-hand snickers oozed under the door frame.
As I sat alone in the living room that night, pretending to watch the Ed Sullivan Show, I prayed that John would come out of my brothers’ room and glance at me. I had my arm slung across the back of the couch, my fuzzy hair flattened firmly against the headrest, and my knobby, scabby knees crossed seductively. I was ready to be noticed.
Halfway through the show, the noises from the bedroom stopped. I sat up quickly, sacrificing my slinky pose. It was important to always hear my brothers. Like the rattles on a sidewinder, the sound kept me informed of their location and striking distance. No rattling made me nervous.
Moments later, I saw movement in the dark kitchen just beyond the living room. A lone shadow floated quietly past the refrigerator and into the blackness beyond.
A skinny, white forearm, attached to a bony elbow thrust itself into the light of the living room. The hand crooked an index finger my way, beaconing me to step into the dark.
This hand didn’t belong to either of my brothers. I knew this because I had seen my brothers’ hands in a variety of poses over the years: Throwing. Grabbing. Picking.
I rose on shaky legs and walked jerkily toward the kitchen as if being pulled inside by giant “Creature Feature” claws. I heard “Johnny Angel” singing through the AM station of my heart. This was the moment “True Confessions” paid big bucks for. And it was happening to me!
Hands grabbed my waist with monkey-wrench tenderness and pulled me into the shadowy rectangle made by the refrigerator. My eyes bulged in dream-come-true excitement as a face came closer and closer...
John’s breath smelled like a mixture of Mom’s supper meatloaf and Switzer’s licorice. I pooched my lips out like a goldfish, sucking in one last gulp of air before his mouth found mine.
This was not like any smooch I’d read about or seen. This kiss was like pressing my mouth into a jar of Vaseline and twisting repeatedly. John’s head moved back and forth, back and forth; his “windshield wiper action” squished my lips into a variety of painful contortions.
I dared a tiny peek to try and capture a romantic view of this kiss, even though I’d been warned that opening your eyes meant it was not “true love”.
What I saw was monstrous.
John’s eyes were clamped tightly shut, as if he were being forced to swallow castor oil; his eyebrows were sweaty, furrowed caterpillars. Cavernous nostrils wheezed with each inhalation, and the sheen of adolescent fervor on his blemished face guaranteed future outbreaks.
There was no magic to this moment.
After what seemed like days, his slathering mouth slid off mine with an audible SMACK. I wiped my face, chin to nose, with the back of my arm. His bony back retreated, silently and romantically, into the hallway.
As I turned to leave the kitchen, my heart pounded triumphantly. I had been kissed! Not just kissed … I had been engulfed in a sea of wet, preteen, masculinity by the boy of my dreams. I felt sexy and shapely and desirable.
That’s when I heard the yipping giggles coming from my brothers’ room.
“YOU REALLY DID IT! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! BOY—WHAT A GUY’LL DO FOR A DOLLAR! YOU WIN FAIR AND SQUARE. PAY THE MAN, MIKE!!”
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