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.