My first kiss was more than surprising, it nearly killed me. Sandra Austin
lived through the woods in a small cabin where her father helped run a James
River farm-estate. He was a cannon, loaded and ready to blast any boy who got
too close to his daughter. Quiet, quick, armed with hard fists and black,
ominous-looking shotguns which were kept loaded and in a rack across his pickup
truck window when one of them was not in the crook of his arm. He was dangerous.
Everyone knew it. Even the dogs kept their distance.
My parents were convinced I had been having hot sex since I was thirteen but
the truth was I had not even really kissed a girl - except maybe a buss on the
cheek at cotillion, or among children at Miss Snediker's kindergarten. I had
only the most vague idea of what actually happened when people made love.
Sandi, 15, and I, 14, flirted by making and knocking down one another's tree
forts in the woods that separated our properties; we climbed in the hayloft of
our barn, tumbling over haybales, hot and sneezing in summer heat. We played tag
in dusky evenings, or caught and released lightning bugs.
One of these summer afternoons she took me home. Her mom was there, busy
doing something that I was not likely to notice nor attend at the prospect of
seeing Sandi's room. It was tiny, her room, and cluttered with strange girl
stuff: lace, curtains, mirror, a small bureau at the end of a narrow wall, its
top cluttered with perfumes and left over dolls from yesterday. There was a
small maple bed with a white cotton tufted bedspread which drooped to the wooden
floor. The house and floor creaked when you walked in it as if it might fall
over at any minute. Her single window faced north, over pastures and away from
our woods. The roller shade was drawn all the way down, making the room cool and
The ceiling was low to start with. It closed down further when Sandi closed
her door. She turned to me. The room became tight as a phone booth - if you
remember real phone booths when they were made of dark brown wood and had lights
and fans and calls were a dime.
I don't remember anything we said, or whether or not I actually held her
close. I don't even remember the whole kiss itself. Just that our mouths met and
hers opened! It OPENED! I was dumbstruck. Somehow I responded, as these young,
warm, wet lips opened to me. Clumsy, somehow I responded, tentative,
experimenting, tongues touched! Hot breath passed, hers into mine. My vision
blackened to a midnight pinpoint. The room spun. Breathless, I was falling,
falling into that mouth, those arms, hot abyss, perfumed and sweet.
My heart pounded and pounded as if it were breaking out of my hairless chest.
The thumping got louder. My god, at 14 years old I was dying of a heart attack!
Suddenly a voice shouted, in with the pounding of my too-loud heart. No, wait,
that's not my heart! It's pounding on her door. OPEN UP THAT DOOR RIGHT NOW YOU
TWO, RIGHT THE HELL NOW!
Now that was cause for a heart attack. Shotgun man, iron-fist man proceeding
to break in the whole door frame with pounding. The house shifted slightly on
its foundation. RIGHT THE HELL NOW I SAID! The window shade snapped suddenly,
then rolled up and around and around, making a flipping sound, spilling bright
sunlight into the room. Lipsticks jiggled on the bureau top, some falling over
in dead fright.
Sandi parted her gentle lips from mine. She moved slowly, as if we were under
water. I stayed, frozen, mouth open, tongue half out, panting in kiss position,
waiting to be shotgunned, but gently she guided me to a more normal pose,
straightened her blouse, and walked calmly to her door and opened it.
"I was just showing Danny my Elvis records, Daddy."
Father, red-faced, frozen himself in mid bang, fist raised, looked across her
shoulder, past her dark brown hair, darker eyes, over her white blouse, at me. I
was too terrified even to tremble. Luckily I remained as posed; a tableau of
innocence, small and pale, against a bureau of a thousand screaming red
lipsticks which only existed to caress those wonderful lips. Nothing in the
whole room was wrinkled, except time.
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