Sunday, August 9, 2009

It Felt Like What I Wanted

I wrote this piece during an exercise in a memoir writing class I took this year. Each week we would write vignettes based upon phrases offered by the teacher. In this case, the phrase wound up being the opening line.

It felt like what I wanted. The tang of sweat above his lip lingered on my tongue as he pulled away. My lips felt bruised from careless contact with his facial hair. "He probably only shaves like, once a week," I spoke with great authority to my girlfriends that evening.

It was the sort of midsummer's day that made you wish that you lived at the beach rather than in the suburbs. As the sun baked my shoulders I sucked down every last drop of the fountain cherry cokes we bought at the corner gas station, then crunched each piece of ice left.

I could taste the cherry coke on his breath, too. He was older, 16 to my 14 and I knew it was fate when I learned his birthday was four days after mine. He loped down the street next to me like he had a guitar slung across his back. His red hair was between stages - him wanting to grow it long, his mother wanting it cut. He was tall and thin but I could see the definition of his muscles as he grasped my elbow.

We sat under a maple tree on a stranger's lawn just blocks from the building where we both took ceramics. Each day prior to today I had meticulously chosen my outfit in anticipation of seeing him: babydoll dresses with leggings, always black but sometimes small flowers to be feminine. This day though after sleeping through the alarm I pulled on beat-up, cutoff jeans covered in bleach stains - the rock n' roll equivalent of tie dye - and sharpee drawings of Led Zeppelin symbols. Of course it was this day that he announced that we should leave class and go for a walk to escape the clammy room of clay.

As we strolled down the neighborhood streets he'd ask me questions and then laugh too hard at my answers. We would halt momentarily to allow the occasional breeze to tickle our skin and the leaves above. In one smooth move he sat down cross-legged. I followed suit and felt grass and tree roots under my legs. I couldn't take my eyes off of his freckles and his blue eyes.

He smiled as he kissed me. The butterflies that had been dusting my stomach walls lifted up through my lungs and out through my shoulder blades.

Years later I would see him at a show where his band was playing. He shined when he smiled as told his friends gathered at the bar "This is the girl who taught me to kiss." I rolled my eyes, nudged his shoulder and announced that I would buy the next round.

As I turned toward the bartender I smiled and closed my eyes for a second. He was the one who gave me what I longed for. My first kiss.

Written of course, for Mike.


Jill Sutton said...

Too Sweet. Glad I got the time to read this while the baby was napping.

Sara Ashes said...

After he read this, Mike reminded me that a caterpillar fell on his head after we kissed, a detail I had forgotten.