I was a spitfire tomboy and only around thirteen when I made my first exciting escape, sneaking out at three o’clock in the morning, shimmying down the side of the house from my second floor bedroom window. I was a little shaky high up, but I had so much adrenaline before my feet touched the ground that I thought I could fly.
Less than two miles away, he waited for me, Larry Hermann, the boy with sun-bleached hair and eyes the same color blue as my big sister’s angora sweater. We had met at a boy-girl party where some of the older kids played spin the bottle and we’d just watched, while stealing sneaky looks at one another.
He was sitting on his front stoop in the dark when I came up his walkway, and he jumped up to greet me, like he couldn’t believe I showed up, like he was really impressed. I was surprised when he linked his hand into mine and pulled me. We ran together, talking nonsense and laughing, until we got to Bunker Woods, where only untamed animals and cool kids dared to go. Neat, I thought. He must like climbing trees, too.
Unexpectedly, under the waning moon, he wrapped me up in his arms. Lickety-split, I realized it was an embrace unlike the ones I got from my parents and aunts and uncles. All my senses seemed to be magnified a hundred-kazillion times. His breathing in my ears, like gusts of wind.
Roy Orbison was singing “Oh Pretty Woman” on a transistor radio Larry had set down on a log; the high notes went through my body like the bow of a violin. I felt like I was floating in the lightness of the moment, confused by his caress, concentrating on my own feelings, imagining his. At the same time I was studying the mighty oaks around us – what great tree houses and forts could be made in these surroundings.
As he held me, I thought about something I once read: how bunny rabbits could simply die from lack of touch. I wondered how I’d ever survived up until this point without it. I felt like a wild animal, getting my first jolt when his lips gently touched mine. I thought of the soft feathers of a baby bird; with our lips together, I became a sparrow flying for the first time. Wow! I thought.
The first kiss – it was monumental, like on the big screen. Every microscopic cell of my being exploded like magic, the stars multiplied and twinkled and burst across the sky in applause, and I looked at him through kaleidoscope eyes. His skin was tawny and warm. He smelled like summer. We blossomed as one, and we melted into candle wax too hot to touch, and too confusing for me to contemplate.
My long brown hair fell out of the shiny satin ribbon which held it and I shuddered, afraid, yet not afraid, of the most important kiss of them all. I was ready for it. It would be the one that I will never forget. The setting was perfect among the birch, and maples and pines, where small animals were our only witnesses, peeking at us in awe.
We returned to the empty road that led back to my house and said our goodbyes. We never saw each other again. One secret encounter was all we needed in our innocence, and it belonged only to us and no one else. Forever.
I climbed back up and through my bedroom window, landing on the mattress near my favorite old stuffed toy. The rabbit’s glass eyes looked frozen, like he needed a hug more than I did, like he was once alive and kept in a cage, untouched and then stuffed and stitched up with all his feelings stuck inside. Unable to sleep, I reached the water globe on my nightstand, with the plastic boy and girl figurines glued together in a whirlwind of glitter. This boy, the “real” boy, somewhere not far from my bedroom window, had just shaken up my insides and was unattached to the globe I had within me. I was alone with my thoughts. Or was I? Would he remember the experience in the same way? Would life continue on as before without a kiss review in the local newspaper?
Mom used to say, “Don’t grow up too fast,” when she brushed my hair late at night. I guess I could have waited a little longer for my first kiss, especially because love is crazy, kind of like magic is, and can disappear into the night – like Larry Hermann. Poof!