damn memories

your first kiss…

i’ll wait.  Go ahead and follow that cranial hyperlink to wherever it takes you.  There’s so much power in those memories.  Good or bad, a stolen moment or the first in a series of escalating kisses, these moments mark us forever.

Annie started it with her meme.  There were some wonderful comments there.  But it wasn’t until i followed rob’s link to uncle keith’s tale of his first kiss that i let myself fall completely into this particular abyss. 

i was 14.  A freshman in high school.  If i had to tag myself with the standard adolescent categories, they would be “overweight, homely, class clown, anarchistic intelligentsia, band fag”*.  To celebrate the end of a successful marching band season** our director organized a dance – and brought in his jazz musician friends as the entertainment.

My best friend, J, was the most beautiful man/boy i’d ever seen.  We were inseparable that year – even  having parental approved “sleep overs”.  I’d stay at his house in the guest bedroom – but mostly we sat up talking all night long, planning our futures, knowing we’d change the world and live rich, full lives of international intrigue and adventure. 

Every girl in 9th grade had a crush on him – older girls, too.  His date for the homecoming dance was a smokin’ hot 12th grade girl – with her own car!  An incredibly gifted, yet mostly undisciplined pianist, we’d spend hours together – him at the piano, me with guitar – working on “our act”.  He was the first person to ever hear me sing… and the first person to ever tell me that i had a good voice, and should sing more often***.

Needless to say, i was madly and hopelessly in love with him.

The night of the “Band Dance”, we came up with enough cash between us to pay his brother to buy us a bottle of Jack Daniels finest bourbon.  We drank it in the parking lot before we went inside.  Fortunately, his brother had siphoned off at least half and watered it down or we’d have been hospitalized. 

A good buzz, with my best friend – the night was off to a magical start!  i remember fighting hope – like a bad case of indigestion – that maybe, just maybe,  the friendship could be more…  As the band played the first slow song, the older girls descended upon us like a harem greeting their prodigal sheik.  He was whisked off by someone much more desirable.  i went out for a smoke.  This pattern repeated with each slow song.  i got used to it. 

The band played the George Benson version of “This Masquerade”.  As i headed for the exit, J grabbed my arm and dragged me onto the dance floor.  Everyone seemed to be watching.  i was mortified.  But i let myself go… fell into his arms… and let myself believe, just for one song, that there was a chance…

He kissed me.  It was the most natural thing in the world.  And after he kissed me, he held me tighter, and we kept dancing.  The song ended, and he didn’t let go.  We didn’t move until the next song started, and then it was awkward and horrible and i couldn’t get out of there fast enough and my face was burning and i needed to be sick and get another smoke so i did a Cinderella number and ran off the dance floor to the parking lot.

The night ended.  11:00 pm.  Parents started to arrive to pick up their children, we said goodnight as we always did, and everyone scattered to the winds.  The next Monday when i first saw him in French class, he smiled at me – perhaps a little more warmly – and then it was back to normal.  As if it never happened.

That day, there was much gossip from the Band Dance.  While i was in the parking lot, chain smoking cigarettes in the throes of 14 year old lovelorn fat chick angst, J was in a closet, swapping spit with the French teacher – an older, hotter 24 year old woman!  This was much juicier gossip than him being seen on the dance floor kissing daisyfae, so the post-event public humiliation was mercifully lost in the noise.

It was about a year later that he told me he was gay.  In hindsight?  Well, d’uh…

There’s much more to this story – but it ended in 1986, when at the age of 25 J was killed in a drug-related accident, falling 60 feet from a railway bridge onto concrete below.  He’s buried within a few hundred yards of my Father.  When i go to the cemetery, i typically make two stops – one to converse with Dad.  One to yell at J for being a dumbass and thinking he could fly.


* Yeah.  Some things never change… And you remember *that* kid from your high school.  Every school has one…

** i don’t think we won any awards, but there were no hospitalizations, no arrests, no pregnancies and inter-school vandalism was kept to a bare minimum.

*** It was another 3 years before i was brave enough to sing solo in front of an audience.  He was playing piano.

19 thoughts on “damn memories

  1. The first boy I fell in love with as a teen was in high school junior year. He had the most beautiful big brown eyes with the longest, darkest lashes. We hung out. Talked forever every night on the phone. Swapped notes back and forth all day long at school. And he was so gay. He made a pass at a mutual guy friend who told me to save me from being a “beard” (I think that’s what they call you anyway). So when I was in college and all my friends were gaga over this guy who was every girls’ best friend and couldn’t pass a mirror without preening – I knew not to waste a minute of time fantasizing.

    I am sorry he died so young and under such circumstances.

  2. I wish my first kiss was half that romantic. The only guy I knew in high school that was gay was my brother, and I had figured out he was “different” when he was about six and put a half-slip on his head so he could be the queen. Other than being ever so good looking and knowing it, I don’t think it shows. His partner of 32 years looks pretty ordinary to me. Because of my experiences with K, I had a hard time believing it when I met some raving queens. Of course, I could tell about being kissed by a queen in full drag… but maybe we won’t go there.

  3. annie – can’t say his death was particularly tragic, just stupid. he wandered after high school, even doing a stint enlisted in the military – before requesting a discharge because he liked boys. just as he’d started to find a path forward – a perfect job with an airline – he does the mother of all stupid things… really, really stupid.

    silverstar – the ol’ “half slip over the head” routine? i’ve got a couple friends who still do that one! can’t say that i haven’t done it, but i was wearing a slip on my head to pretend to have long blonde hair! not recently… well, is 5 years ago “recent” in this context?

    kyknoord – it was 1975. it was probably an “”Earth Shoe” “. Likely worn with a “peasant dress”.

    dolce – wow. as a mother, i have an overwhelming urge to find the man who first kissed you and whack him upside the head with a bat. you had quite a bit of poise for such a young woman. (first link doesn’t work, by the way… )

    paisley – i took that stroll to evict the demon that had been rattling around in my head for a couple weeks. i hope it doesn’t mess up the lawns in the neighborhood too badly 🙂

  4. this was painfully sweet… as many first kisses are, including mine. And funny how after *mumble mumble* years later, we still feel the pain to our core. i hope this helped quiet the demon, if not exorcise it.

  5. gnu – the “first kiss” demon is sitting beside Memory Lane, drinking lukewarm tea from a thermos and cursing his bifocals as he tries to read the evening paper. his brother, the “first time” demon, was snorting from behind the barn, sharpening his claws and feasting on rotted roadkill to hone the malodorous afterburn of his fire…

    dolce – give me an address. i’m only 30 hours away by plane. i’ll bring the bat… and your ‘more kisses’… a magical tale of tonsil hockey! stunning!

    uk – we should do both. if we write it, we should ‘right’ it. make the endings work out better… something a little redemptive perhaps? please?

  6. daisyfae,

    After reading this, I don’t have any witty remarks. I sense that it took more than a little intestinal fortitude to drag this memory forth, write it down and splash it up for all to see.

    I do wonder, though, about the preponderance of women who will admit to – in their youth – falling for a guy who would later turn out to be gay. I mean even this woman – J was in a closet, swapping spit with the French teacher – an older, hotter 24 year old woman! – didn’t see it.

    In my grade (in a rural northern Alberta high school – can you say homophobic?) there was a guy who was so obviously gay. He was all the girls’ friend, we wore the kinds of clothing (pants, especially) that no other guy there would be caught dead wearing. He was friendly and all and did not appear to be openly persecuted (although it was kind of an unwritten thing that gay guys usually moved to the city after high school – I imagine just to find more of a community of like minded folk) which, as an outsider looking in, I found interesting. I don’t know that a lot of the girls were romantically attracted to him, he was more like just “one of the girls”.

    He moved back to his hometown and was running a local lounge. I heard he died from AIDS sometime between our 10th and 20th high school reunions.

    Hmmm. I hadn’t thought of him in ages until I read your post.

    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Oh, Daisy, you were a hag from your most youngest-est days, weren’t you? You and I are like, living parallel lives.

    My first kiss? Depends on what counts as a first kiss. First peck was in a mock-marriage ceremony (with rings fucking braided from pine needles, even) in the backyard of the house of my boyfriend and faux groom, Andy Kurtz (oh yeah–I used his real name! What?). We exchanged mock-marriage vows (don’t remember that part), and then we kissed.

    Much like Daisy Fae, that kiss embarrassed and confused me, and I ran away, ran away, all the way home. No clue what happened to him. How’s that for NOT poignant? SSSMMMMOOOOCCCCCHHHHHH!!

  8. dolce – good to know that even with such a memorable “snog log”, that the current boytoy has you in tatters… shadoobie… shattered, shattered….

    rob – there’s an “Act II” that will likely go undocumented. it was surprisingly difficult, even after 32 years to cough that one up. but theraputic, nonetheless. As for the allure of [ahem] “the gentlemen who can’t throw”? first off, not all gay men are stereotypically gay… especially in the difficult high school years. Nothing says “Hey! Beat me up!” like a 14 year old queen at the friday night football game… J didn’t “flame” (well, he had moments – and perhaps we did play with makeup, but only when it was just us…)… J wasn’t the only, just the first… for me? it was just delicious to hang out with male humans who could actually SEE me. most boys at that time looked through me… or at my monstrous tits. not sure what it is with other gals…

    Dr. Stankishness – yep. you know it! Andy is probably still in therapy because you ran away. Or talking to his attorney about the libel/slander lawsuit he’s going to slap on you for bringing up this terrible memory. SMOOOOOOTCH back at ya!

  9. j was my best bud in 7th and 8th grade…I miss him dearly. We camped out several times during our endless summers, and had such deep conversations it made our heads pound. We used to play this game in the darkness of the tent…staring into each other’s face until our features started to morph into the most horrifying creatures…it really was freaky!

    I didn’t know he was gay until we were like in our twenties.(though I always wondered why he never had a steady girlfriend)..I had truly discovered girls in tenth grade…eventually, me and j became the friends that just mouthed “hi” as we passed each other in the school hallways.

    I went to visit him after we both had been discharged from the military…guess the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy was in effect. We played guitars and tried to recapture the old days in one nervous evening. I wanted to ask him about his gayness(sorry for that word), but never did. The gay thing never bothered me and I wanted to rekindle our friendship…but there was something wrong..something distant in his eyes.

    A friend called me a couple months later to break the bad news of his death. I couldn’t go to the funeral because of a new job I had started…and didn’t really want to go..because there was really no way that my buddy J was dead…not dead. I decided to remember him the way I always envisioned his face…with that witty smile..that wonderful head of hair…

    So, hopefully J, when we write of you…you are aware of it and know that you’re never forgotten.

  10. hey there, crying bull… thanks for tripping down memory lane with me. the good stuff and the not so good… and the drama? all in my head. that’s what it’s like to be 14. when i spent some time with him after he was discharged from the military? same sort of thing… he wasn’t really there — i think he was in some sort of funky transition when he died. shame he didn’t have another year to get it behind him…

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