Tuesday, July 23, 2002

A Boy Tried To Kiss Me

One time, when I was young, not much more than 14 if I remember right, a boy tried to kiss me ... but there was much more to it than that. There was water and boats and an old AM radio, badly plugged in, and a full moon and a gang of other kids and spin the bottle and summer rye fields grown so tall above your head you could hide there and a metal mesh screen on the window to keep out bugs. It's all just falling out of me this morning, with no narrative to hang it on ... sorry ... actually not sorry ... I mean, let me wrangle it into a story so it might make sense to me and might make sense to you. Actually I don't care if it makes any sense to you whatsoever, but I really would like to make sense of it for me. And it happens that the moon is rising again on today's calendar, going full tilt and I find I long for a boy to kiss me when the moon is rising and it would be best if I could understand that a little since it spells nothing but trouble for me. Always has.

That summer I was 14 there were a number of sailboats in a shed that needed sanding and fiberglassing and fixing up. That's what I had been drafted to do. We rented a cottage, that we called the Marina House, next to the boat sheds in the Marina that summer and the landlord -- the father of this boy I longed for -- came around one morning in early June to see if any of us wanted to help sand boats for the summer. We were three sisters in flip flops, a babyish one in pink flipflops (my little sister just 9 then), a 14 year old skinny tough one in blue don't-mess-with-me, like-I-care, flipflops (that was me) and a slightly plump 16-year-old sneaking-cigarettes-behind-the-shed yellow flip-flopped older sister. Of course we said, yes, we wanted to sand boats.

Did you ever notice you are doing certain activities that in name only seem reasonable, but they are, in fact, a ruse, that you are doing something completely apart from this surface activity and if pressed you would admit it, but rarely do we press each other to the wall in this way. So of course, I thought I was sanding boats, but I was watching this tall boy's butt in blue jeans, and especially his back which was tan and strong and pretty much impossible to tear my eyes away from, and even sometimes when he turned around, I brazenly looked at his chest, his ribs, his hard abs which descended into the waistband of his jeans and noticed the way ... well, let me just say I was learning how to sand boats that summer, so I was watching him closely since he was very good at sanding boats.

Free labor is always a tricky workforce, but we got more accomplished than one would expect. The boy put a really lousy AM radio in the rafters of the boat house and it was on a all-hits-all-the-time station but for some reason I remember it playing only three songs ad infinitum. It played "In The Year 2525" followed by "Positively 4th Street" and "I Think We're Alone Now." I would blush as that song cried out, "Children Behave! That's what they say when we're together ..."

Truth be told I had absolutely no traction on this boy, so to speak. He didn't notice me for shit. He didn't even know my name. He was 17 and he was checking out my older sister of 16 and I hated her guts for that. And he was also ducking behind the shed to smoke, and since she did that too they had a special bond and I hated them both for that and I hated smoking and I hated the way my sister was using smoking to walk some path into being a grownup and being sexy and doing it with some sort of relative ease and I was this gawky geeky hopeless knee-knocking school girl madly in love with this unreachable boy. He might as well have been in another universe, hell, he could have been living in the year 2525 for how close he was to me. But then devastatingly, he might come over to give me a new piece of sandpaper and rub his arm against mine and I was in complete meltdown.

But one night, I got an unlikely chance. Life works that way. My sister had gone into the local town to the movies with some girlfriends of hers -- and a gang of kids were coming to our house for dinner, a barbeque I think, and there were some fairly older trustworthy college girls who used to be nannies for us there, so my parents were off at another couple's rented house down the road for cocktails and lobster. I was scuffing past the boathouse in my flipflops and saw him there at sunset still sanding and actually had the wherewithal to invite him over for a hot dog, god knows how I summoned the words, much less that idea of inviting him and he smiled at me with those dimples and said, "Sure," he'd come by. That was the first smile I ever saw from him that might mean something, I was in ecstacy.

We all ate and had fun. I even spoke to him once or twice, again, it looked as if he had noticed I existed. This was more than I could ask for. It was dark, but there was an amazing full moon brimming outside the window, when someone got a deck of cards out and we all sat on the faded carpet in the livingroom of the Marina House to play cards I somehow ended up seated next to him.

Cards turned into Spin-The-Bottle suddenly, and I felt a little dizzy, I was in over my head. The kids seemed older, the night darker, my inexperience poking into my ribs like a sharp knife. I hadn't kissed any boys and I wasn't sure I could and should or whatever.

Weirdly, the bottle kept pointing to him -- and he was cool, kissing some girls quickly, girls that were older and giggly and I could look slanty sideways at him when the bottle stopped at his place and watch him kiss these girls adroitly and wonder if he might pick me. Once, he caught me looking and smiled at me that way again. The bottle spun and stopped here and there, not at this boy's place for a few turns. But I could feel it coming back my way.

I jumped up to .... go somewhere ... to run away ... to go to the bathroom I said, but it was to go hide out. The bottle was spinning, and again, it landed in front of him. I was on the other side of the room, almost to the bathroom, I heard him say my name, it was like a bullet zinging across the room and nearly took me down. I flew into the bathroom shyly, locking the door quickly but our gang would have none of it. They erupted in shrieks and laughter, yelling "Kiss him, kiss him, kiss him!" I was at the far wall of the bathroom, grabbing my face in both hands. They were banging on the door now. I threw open the window that looked out on the back yard, the moon large and welcoming. The kids were yelling and banging on the door. In a flash I climbed up on the toilet and jumped out the window, no small feat as I realized halfway through that a metal bug screen was on the window and I tore it loose as I tumbled through and onto the ground.

I ran. I ran away from the house, the noise, the laughter, the boy. I ran crying big splashy tears. I kept running. I ran to the moon, to the rye fields where I fell into the soft summer crop, catching my breath, trying to stop sobbing. I walked a long time. Finally I walked back to the very edge of the Marina where I could spy on the house to see if they had gone home. I crouched down under a boat shed, sat on the bow of a sailboat that bobbed in the water, I could watch the moon's reflection in the water form and reform. I saw the kids leave, I saw my sister come home from the movies, I saw a college girl walk out look around, look worried at where I was. I did not see the boy. He was gone. I saw my parents coming from the end of the road so I dashed into the house. The college girl had a few words with me, but covered for me. I hid in my bunk bed, heard her reassuring my parents that all was well. Heard her leaving.

In the morning, we were sanding boats and the radio was playing and he gave me a sideways glance that was just right, and we both laughed a little but pretended it was coughing.