People’s memories work in a myriad of ways. I’m 57 now, and a half to be completely accurate. Most of my childhood is shrouded in mist. Really there are just a few moments that play like old sitcom reruns in my brain. I have a friend who can remember precisely where his high school locker was and its combination. I remember none of that, but I do remember a night in 1979. This is purportedly a blog about my last, first kiss, but this post is about my first, first kiss.
Forty years ago, I was a junior (third year) in high school. I grew up in a blue collar town of about 20,000 residents in suburban New Jersey. The houses were mostly small affairs. If you counted the amount of buildings of each, we were mostly preoccupied with drinking and religion, because there were many bars, liquor stores and several churches. On Sunday mornings, the church pews were filled with congregants who rued their decisions the night before. And, for the most part, we children followed our parent’s example.
On any given Saturday, many of the teenagers would go to the evening mass, not out of any feeling of religious obligation, but to congregate on the broad, front steps of St. Mary’s after the service and decide where to go that night. Just moments before, all those kids had dutifully taken the body of Christ into their sin free mouths, literally embodied in a thin wafer of bread. They had done so standing before God, represented in a lifelike bronze sculpture of his anguished Son nailed on a cross in 2x scale not 15 feet behind the altar. The sculpture leaned forward ever so slightly, so it seemed the blood from his wounded brow just might drip on you. All was forgotten ten minutes later as we chatted excitedly on the stairs, fomenting revolution, riot and ruin.
Most nights, the kids gathered in their own little groups and each group would send out their most popular emissary to ask another group if they knew of anything going on. Usually, we’d discover absolutely nothing was happening and the groups would each take their leave, going their own way independently looking to buy some beer, blackberry brandy and tango. Or some pot. On this particular night, word spread there was a party in town. My friends and I hopped in my buddy Mike’s Ford Custom 500 and headed over to Jimmy O’Brien’s. I knew Jimmy, hell he lived only a block over. We weren’t friends, but neither were we enemies. Sometimes, you entered a party like this and it might be trouble. Some bully might be acting like a bouncer at the door, Who said you could come? Get the fuck out. You’d have no choice but to slink away. The gods (not the one we had just left, more like the gods of the vikings) were with us that night though and we gained entry without a problem grabbed a red Solo cup and headed for the beer keg sitting in a trashcan filled with ice in the kitchen. One was already tapped and flowing. Two more were sitting nearby waiting their turn. The immediate future was looking drunken. Usually the events on a night like this would follow a regular sequence: 1-procure alcohol and commence drinking, 2-eye girls up from across the room, but avoid eye contact at all costs, 3-drink more alcohol, 4-gaze in wild wonder while other more daring guys talk up your girls, 5-drink more alcohol, 6-trash talk the girls, who had left some time ago. This night, though, didn’t follow the regularly scheduled programming.
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