In a detached, long-ago, Raymond Babbitt way, my first kiss was wet.
Vicky had auburn hair that flowed smoothly through my fingers, perky, coming-of-age breasts, and knew a friend of a friend of my sister. She rode her bike over one day after school and we hit it off nicely, mostly due to our mutual passion for the German band Scorpions, and spent the sunny, fall afternoon nestled on my hideaway couch, chatting about nothing in particular and awkwardly watering the seeds of adolescent infatuation, while Klaus Meine, Matthias Jabs and company did their thing on Love at First Sting. I remember the popping of the vinyl and the end of side one, and the annoyance of having to get up to turn the album over so the serenade could continue. We were the Lady and the Tramp, munching on cookies instead of meatballs and opting for MTV’s “Ambassadors of Rock” rather than the Italian strains of “Bella Notte.” We immediately decided that “Still Loving You” would be our song.
We were all into the strangeness of sitting close and smiling and singing along and stealing glances as we passed each other in the hallway at school. And eyes were upon us everywhere we went, in the knowing, giggly gazes of friends, and the wide-eyed and weary tractor beam stares of parents, making sure we didn’t go too far. So, while on a trip to visit a relative on the far side of the world that was the north side of Chicago, we snuck away and walked hand in hand along unfamiliar and forgettable sidewalks to a little park with a huge, wooden play structure. We climbed to the top, turned our backs on the empty suburban street, and shared a quick peck. On the lips! I kept my eyes open, my heart pounding as I frantically scanned the corner of the bushes surrounding the park for any sign of my tag-along, tattle-tale sisters. She placed a warm, gentle hand on my cheek, turned my face toward hers, slowly closed her eyes, and . . . yeah . . . it was wet. I remember laughing, giddy and profoundly aware of the import of the moment. We had only kissed for maybe ten seconds, but I nearly passed out. I needed lip balm. And a cigarette.
Later that night, as we huddled in the back of my dad’s Chevy Silverado and let the pollution of a million city lights soak into our faces, body heat provided little relief from the chilly fall air, or the icy stare of my mom and her constant glances back through the sliding cab window. It was the same panicked look that graced her otherwise solemn face when we’d lounged around the living room and watched The Coca-Cola Kid on videotape and the on-screen romance started heating up. I vividly remember her nudging my dad’s leg with her foot, a silent and yet not-so-subtle suggestion to perhaps hit the pause button and shoo us minors off to bed.
Be careful little eyes what you see.
I imagine they both realized that, during an innocent little road trip, things had changed for their first-born son. And I got the feeling that they weren’t too pleased, especially since they’d already agreed to let her spend the night as a guest of my sister. Did they even sleep? Were they listening as I slipped into the room where she waited, at exactly 1:27am, and we snuggled in the easy chair that sat in the corner and quietly kissed some more. That we eventually moved to the floor and let our trembling hands explore places hidden away in the daylight but conveniently accessible in the privacy of the night? Could they hear the gasps we let fly, despite our best efforts to keep them bottled up?
I’m getting a stress headache just remembering all this. In no way was I prepared for the emotional roller coaster I boarded that day. So many firsts that will never be had again.
We went out a few more times. Got into trouble. And eventually broke up, the words of “Still Loving You” suddenly meaning so much more. I remember my dad, having figured out from my gloomy disposition that something must have went wrong, coming into my room and sitting beside me on my couch. We didn’t talk much. If he did, I didn’t listen much. I had no clue how to be in a relationship. How to have fun and take things in stride and weather the storms. I just knew I had been crushed and life was over. And it was more than likely my fault. Guilt had found a home. Moved in and made itself comfortable, and ate away at my foundation for too many years.
But that’s another blog post.
This one is about first kisses. The kind my almost-fifteen-year-old son has been engaging in as-of-late. I know this because I’m not stupid. We’ve taken the time to talk about how relationships typically don’t play out like they do in the movies. How most songs, and well-meaning friends, aren’t the best sources of information regarding dating and sex and all things lovey-dovey. How there is nothing wrong with feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all. And how there is nothing to be embarrassed about. My wife and I give them the freedom to express their feelings around us, for we want to be their best example of love. Imagine their surprise, and not-so-hidden glee, when I recently encouraged them to take advantage of the panoramic view atop the Sky Safari ride at our local zoo, and smooch a little.
They think I’m crazy. But these will be the times he remembers most when he gets older. And I want him to remember that I didn’t judge him or belittle his emotions. Instead I let him have his smooches, and loved him all the same . . .