Wednesday, September 26, 2012

First (Sort Of) Kiss

"Hey," Carmen whisper-yelled. "Billy's going to try to kiss you."

Carmen and I circled the ancient oak that erupted from the middle of our Catholic school's parking lot. Situated among the rectory, school, and convent, the lot served as our playground. We hopped from one of the tree's gigantic, gnarled roots to another, whirling our arms to keep our balance.

"Why?" I asked.  I leaned against the tree, the rough bark scraping my palm.

I glanced at the dodge ball game on the far side of the lot. Billy had just gotten whammed in the side with the red rubber ball of death. It made me wince.  Two days earlier, I'd gotten hit by a fourth grader, and fell to my knees. I scratched at my souvenir scab, which was the only part of my leg that could be seen between my navy socks and plaid jumper skirt.

"Dunno," Carmen shrugged.  Her curly, toffee-colored hair hung loose around her shoulders. "He told me in the cloak room before recess."

These did not seem like appropriate conversations to have in the dark of the second grade class' cloak room.

I rounded the tree, and there was Billy. He had abandoned the dodge ball game, and stood about ten feet away from the tree.  Ten feet away from me.  His hands were behind his back, and an elvish grin pushed his cheeks wide.  His clip-on tie was askew, its pointed tip veering toward his hip. He fixed his big brown eyes on me, and took another step in my direction.

"Run!" Carmen yelled.

So I ran. I mean, that's what you do when you are seven years old, right? You run from smooch-happy boys.  Oh, how I ran. Zig-zagging around kids playing hopscotch, jacks, red rover, hand-clapping games, and, of course, dodge ball.

Billy kept up. I looked over my shoulder, my blond hair slicing my view into stripes.  Billy was gaining.

I couldn't get away. I knew he was closing in, and that I would be his smooch-ee. I know there are worse things than being kissed by a cute boy on the playground. That's the stuff of Norman Rockwell paintings, after all.  But for some reason, I decided that it would be just the worst.  Did Not Want.  Nope.  So, I chose the only path left to me:


I leaped onto the chain link fence that tenuously divided dozens of Catholic school kids from a busy street.  And I climbed, Miss Mary Mack-style, as high as I could go. That turned out to be about three feet.  That's when the eighth grade safety helper blew her whistle, which meant that we had to go line up.  I unhooked my fingers, one at a time, and dropped down to the cracked macadam below.

Billy's kiss slid from the apple of my cheek to the top of my ear.  I can feel it now, my first kiss, delivered as I descended a fence to answer the clarion call of a Farrah Fawcett-feathered-hairstyled eighth-grader.

We lined up.

Billy shyly smirked.

Carmen nudged me.

"Did he kiss you?" she asked.

"No," I asked, staring at the back of Sal G.'s head as we trudged back to class.


"Well," I yanked up one of my socks. It had shed itself of my calf during my during my frenzied run around the parking lot.  "Sort of."

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