I followed Kim into the kitchen (Catch up with pt. 1 and pt. 2 here), where the keg waited. Like most kitchens during every party I’ve ever been since, it was a congregation point. People naturally gathered into the kitchen and like most rooms in this house (and like most houses in my hometown), it was pretty small. I waited behind her as others filled their own cups to the brim with Budweiser beer. Each person entering the party had been asked to throw in a few dollars. You got one thing for your admittance fee, beer and more beer. There were no chips, no dip, nothing to wash down. If you wanted ambiance, you had to wait for the prom. As juniors we had a prom. It wasn’t quite as extravagant as the Senior Prom, where the boys rented tuxedos and the girls wore gowns. At the junior version, we wore casual suits and dresses. When I say casual suits, think the Seventies during the disco era. And the senior tuxes were often pastel in color. Roger Moore was our James Bond. Can I be any plainer? This was not a classy time, folks.
The linoleum floor under the keg was wet and streaked with the dirt from the partiers’ worn sneakers. As we slowly inched our way to the keg tap, we didn’t say a word to each other, but i was acutely aware of her closeness. I wondered if she knew how near I was to her. The crowd necessitated our proximity, of course. I’m not being creepy, I assured myself. Now and again, some lout would jostle us and she’d take a step back into me. Sorry, she’d call over her shoulder. I wondered if she felt what those little brush-ups did to me. Did girls know how little it took to excite a teenage, virgin boy? It’s often been said a stiff breeze could stiffen a teenage boy. My experience leads me to believe the veracity of that maxim. When Kim finally got to the keg, I took it upon myself to reach for the trigger spout at the end of the rubber hose, as a gentleman does in these situations. The keg decided not to let me off easy and gushed a steady stream of foam instead of beer into Kim’s waiting red Solo cup. She smiled up at me and said something I didn’t quite catch. I said, What? a little louder than necessary. That finished quicker than I was hoping, she called back over the booming music. She took the spout from my hand and placed it back on the spent keg. They’ll switch it out soon, she smiled. Hey, Jimmy, she said. I’m gonna get out of this smoke and noise. Wanna take a walk around the block with me? What’s a shy boy to do but nod dumbly.
I followed her out as we threaded our way to the door. She reached back and took hold of my hand. How did she know I wanted her to? Did she feel how sweaty my palm was? Have I suddenly become irresistible to girls? What, in God’s name, was going on here? Why did it feel like an out-of-body experience, like these things were happening, but I was merely watching not partaking?
She was making small talk…Some party, huh? Music’s pretty loud. Cigarette smoke gives me a headache. Thanks for keeping me safe out here. I replied with monosyllables. Thought to myself, she probably should have chosen wiser for protection. I could only act as a tripping hazard against any threats. Your hand is very sweaty, she observed without judgement, bringing me back to the present. Are you nervous about something? I told her no, like this was a regular occurrence, me walking around holding hands with a girl for anyone to see. As we walked along the dark street, I was hyper aware of every aspect of myself, my heartbeat, the hum in my ears, my sweaty palms, the constrained stirring below. As if on cue, she pivoted into me and we were face to face as simply as that. She pressed into me. I could feel the heat passing through her jeans. I wondered if she felt me. She looked up expectantly and closed her eyes. We embraced and I kissed her. It was messy and awkward. We kissed like we were devouring each other’s mouths. Our tongues darted and lapped. It was about as bad a kiss as I can recall since. I forgot to breathe through my nose. I gasped for air. It was the best kiss and my very first.
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