This is part of a project that documents first kisses through my past. Memory can distort things and I'm creative, so not everything is 100% true.
Tiger blanket on a twin bed, an undressed brown pillow which rarely got used, no headboard, big desk, dead candles: everywhere. This is the bedroom of a teenaged girl desperately trying to meet Billy Corgan and who feels sexy in oversized corduroy work pants.
She noticed this one day in a parking lot, walking from the car to the mall entrance with her mother and sister. The sand colored pants hanging low on one hip and her father’s ancient t-shirt faded to a pale yellow on top. The stretch of skin exposed by the falling pants and hiked up cotton hemline of her shirt sent a bite of recognition of what it feels like to be sensual into her brain.
Skater, grunge, whatever you’d call her look didn’t matter. Her friend was a real skater and only the shoes mattered. They had to grip a board and manipulate the rectangle into flipping and landing safely. She could never figure out the geometry of such feats. She preferred inline skates, something that would later be referred to as “fruitbooting.’ Aggressive inline skaters never garnered much respect from the community, but she was a girl, which meant everything.
Paul was over 6 feet tall, had dirty blonde hair down to his nipples and looked exactly like the lead singer of Silverchair. The band was very popular at the time and any mention of it near Paul would make him squirm with disgust. She first saw him from the car as her mother pulled up to High School orientation. She spotted him on the sidewalk talking to another kid and knew instantly that they would be friends.
He was extremely kind hearted and the most honest person she’d ever met, but he lacked a sense of decorum about race and religion that I don’t think he ever reconciled. One year for her birthday, Paul made the girl a mobile. She was very crafty herself and was touched by the time and skill he put into this present. It was constructed of rope, large washers and metal fittings, the hard plastic head of a toy Kermit the Frog doll, and at the top was a swastika drawn onto a piece of cardboard. The girl and her Mother’s family are Jewish. He knew this. He didn’t mean harm. He was just that kind of guy.
The girl always thought that Paul was from Tree Fort Louisiana because she couldn’t decipher Shreveport when he said it. A mutual friend from school told the girl that Paul was color blind. Once she confirmed this by administering the green light, red light test, she started having some fun. Corey, the same kid Paul had been talking to on orientation day, and she would give Paul pink and purple lighters and tell him they were red or blue. They would convince Paul that the girl’s hair was orange when it was really green. They would try and tease him at least once a day to make him feel desired and part of the inner circle. Paul was also the girl’s lab partner in Biology. She would make him do all of the gross stuff, like the cheek swab and the insect-related investigations.
Eventually the girl made enough friends at her new school to get invited to parties. Paul had no problem showing up places where he didn’t know anyone. So he was certainly happy to go with the girl to wherever the fun would be. I wouldn’t say that she discovered beer at these parties, but she did discover the compulsion that this bubbly beverage caused.
One particularly warm night, the girl descended into the basement of Erica’s house and found Paul standing by the open garage door. He was smoking a cigarette, something the girl wouldn’t start doing for another year. She approached him with a big swivel in her hips. It was not forced or conscious movement. Her chin felt strange and her ears were alert, and as soon as she noticed these physiological abnormalities, she was at Paul’s side taking in the scent of his Parliament. She turned her fizzy head toward his and grabbed his flannel with her small fist and tugged. His reaction was, “Whhhaaatt?” with a long, dramatic sense of dismay.
She tugged again but this time pulling in a downward motion. “Come here!” she said sternly while cracking a smile. He flicked his cigarette butt onto the sloped driveway and exhaled before turning his head back in her direction. He bent forward, enough to reach his mouth to hers and gave her one last look of intention. As if to ask if this is what she wanted. She again smiled and connected their mouths before he had the chance to back away.
The stance was all wrong, but all they cared about was the feeling of joy their tongues produced in the regions of their bodies that mattered. They moved each other about with their hands, finding angles and pockets, and soft spots that enhanced their encounter. They felt so natural at this. This felt right and would even without the beer.
This was their friendship now. They made out in front of people, in front of dogs, and cats. They got caught by her father at least a dozen times. The scene would be: Dad’s head popping past the door frame, girl notices and quickly pulls away from Paul while swiping her arm across her mouth to dry it off. Everyone laughing. (Dad took this in stride, he liked Paul.)
At one important New Year’s party at Erica’s house, Paul was late. Rachel had been drinking and felt her chin get heavy and her body start to feel needy. This waiting enhanced her symptoms but made them irritating. When Paul finally arrived she approached him with speed. She whispered, “Standing isn’t going to cut it this time. Let’s lay down.”
Paul’s reaction showed a conflict. She couldn’t decipher what his exact thoughts were, but he walked away which made the girl even more irked. Later on in the evening he found her and she got her wish. It was still very much friendly, clothed, and extremely satisfying. What colored her world was this ability to get what she wanted. She never asked for too much, but she never let others’ views stain her picture.
There were many drunken make outs to come. More couches, more lying down, more dads. Later on in life, more sex. More bumbled nights of staying over and staying just friends. One night the girl sat on the edge of his very comfortable Bob’s Discount Furniture mattress and looked down. She started feeling full of emotion. They had been drinking, but more than that, they were sitting next to each other on a bed the same way they had 14 years ago. “Paul, I want to tell you something serious and I mean it in a really sincere way. I love you. You mean so much to me.”
Once again there was a hesitation from him. She assured him that it was still just as a friend that she loved him. She knew that he’d always wanted a bit more. It was easier to ignore this fact, though. And it was something he was willing to do as well. He did reciprocate her kind words. She could feel their truth as they wrapped around her in the dark.
There wasn’t anyone that she could compare him to. And even though her father always thought they’d end up together, they always held steady to what worked for them. There were partners that would get in the way of their fun from time to time. The girl was married for a spell and Paul called her man up early on. “Yo, can I get drunk with your girl tonight?” “Uh, no.” was the summary of the answer. And then there was Paul’s girlfriend who didn’t want the girl around at all.
These judgments were natural to expect. Their relationship was not something everyone could handle. Love, to the girl, is an open thing. It cannot be limited to one being or shaded into one expression. Paul understood that his receiving of such a gift would be counter to building a life with another woman. Many of the girl’s other special friends would come to this conclusion, too.