I am graduating from University in a week… This semester has been chock-full of utterly useless classes, such as a writing course I was required to take for no apparent reason other than Admissions not wanting to accept my AP English 5 or any of the upper divisional English courses I took at Butler.
Anyway, I was instructed (forced?) to compose “two vignettes from my former years, namely your first kiss and a romantic evening”.
Are you serious right now? My teacher is pushing 80, why does he want to read about my romantic escapades from high school?
… Unless he knew how incredibly fun it would be to write about these (and it was, it so was), in which case, this professor is a genius!
I share the kiss story with you because they’re just that fun, and I imagine I’m somewhat of a movie star so ordinary people care about this stuff. (Delusional!)
Of All the Songs…
I was beat. I walked out of my high school into the cool and refreshing night air, so common to Indiana in late February. Our annual one inch of snow had fallen and melted within the same week. In its stead the balmy, humid air that promised an early spring settled on my hot skin cooling it, breathing life back into me. I was leaving rehearsal for Bells are Ringing, a musical. It was close to eleven-thirty and I was dead on my feet from a night that involved running from swim practice to show choir rehearsal to musical rehearsal. I had spent the past six hours solely dancing and singing, wearing different costumes and extracting different emotions from my audience of a choir teacher, choreographer, a director, another choreographer, and a producer; add on top of that two and a half hours at swim practice right after school. I smelled like chlorine, heavy duty lotion (to keep my skin from falling off, the pool was experiencing chemical imbalances and the whole team had chemical burns), hairspray, and that particular smell of costumes that had been sweated in; a smell that can only be remembered and not described. I visited with my cast mates under pools of light from the pole lamps in the dark front parking lot. We were all in various stages of dress, some donning pajamas, others in their school clothes, some like myself were half in our costumes, too tired to change fully.
I looked particularly absurd. I was clad in blue cotton shorts that had a yellow and white lines down the sides, a dark maroon tank top with glaring bleach stains and a large cable-knit, tan cardigan common on any grandpa. The sleeves of the cardigan were too long, I pulled them down and clasped them in my hands, giving me an amputated look. Underneath I was buckled into an authentic, “of the period” 1940s corset system that pinched and poked me to distraction, and silk stockings with a flirty, thick seam down the back. I was shod in four-inch glossy red stilettos that did wonders to my calf muscles, and tormented my ankles, sore from dancing on a torn Achilles’ Tendon. My hair was pulled back, pinned, and shellacked into a style befitting Bette Davis. It was itchy, and the bobby-pins made my head ache in dull pain. My lips were candy-apple red, my eyes encompassed in thick, long false eyelashes. I felt bewitching, irresistible, and glamorous. I felt like the most romantic screen-star of the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Talking in the parking lot with my friends was just a ruse, I was only stalling. The object of my affection, Thomas Pappas, was on a school bus, on his way back to this very parking lot. He had been at a competition for Academic Superbowl, and my secret spy network (my good friend, Beth, on the bus with him) had informed me that they were only a few miles away from the school at that very moment. I could afford to wait. To kill time my friends and I posed for pictures, lay down in the parking lot by my car and pretended to be dead from such a stressful rehearsal. We were alive in our exhaustion, and animatedly planned our celebration after opening night next week.
The headlights of the bus interrupted our conversation, we did not get up from the pavement, we were too far out of its path to bother. The academically elite alighted from the bus, clad in their deep red polos and khaki pants, enveloped in a mood that made obvious their victory. One by one, others from our group left the ground (I was not the only one with a lover on the bus) and went to join their companion. Tom was the last to disembark, he held the trophy, he went to his car. I was in his path, as I had parked next to him (on purpose? Yes, a girl in the throws of young love never does anything by accident). He struggled with finding his keys in his backpack. I took a picture of his struggle, the flash notified him of my presence. He looked down upon me and his face lit up with a smile that changed his serious, mature, swarthy Greek face into that of a little boy…a startling paradox to witness, but endearing none the less.
“Miss Wickham” he said in his deep, resonant, throaty, yet sing-song voice that never failed to make me bubble inside with giddiness. He hardly ever called me by my first name, no one ever calls me by my first name. “I didn’t take you for the type to lay on dirty pavements. I would have thought it beneath you.” He unlocked his car finally and placed his backpack and the shiny trophy on the backseat.
“Ah, yes, well…I was pretending to be dead.” I answered.
“That would be a great loss to humanity.” he complimented as he walked over and pulled me to my feet. We stared at each other for some time, communicating only by glances and smiles. After a while he made some trifling comment about my clothes, on how beautiful I was. We leaned against his car, floating in the light from the tall light-pole above us. Two other couples in the lot copied our movements, our vapid conversation. Our choreographer came out to his car and asked if this was “Lookout Point”. The six of us giggled coyly. The other two couples got into their cars and drove off. Tom and I remained. He asked if I would come sit in his car and listen to a mix CD of World War II songs he had put together. I agreed. Inside his car we talked languidly about Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt, the allied and axis powers while we indulged in our mutual weakness: Glenn Miller. Neither of us belonged to our own time, but to times that had passed long ago. Forgotten. We made gooey-eyes at each other and were content in our three way cuddle between me, him, and the car’s middle console. A travel coffee mug smashed into my ribs.
We listened as the “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” passed by “Pennsylvania-6500”and escaped into the melancholy and romantic “Moonlight Serenade”. Abruptly a bawdy Lucky Milliander blared through the speakers and changed the mood. We laughed at the change of ambience cast by the vulgar song. Tom laughed into my hair, cursed his sister for putting the song on the CD and tenderly kissed the top of my head. I turned and looked at him, startled. Surely all the hairspray, pomade and chlorine could not have made that experience very pleasant for him. We studied each others faces for what felt like ages until the excited energy of our bodies pulled us towards one another to make the event official.
It was not my first kiss; I had been raised in show business and in a community of European traditions that allowed me to be kissed and kiss everyone I knew; but it was my first kiss connected to a specific person, a specific level of commitment, of emotion, of feeling. I giggled with excitement mid lip-lock. My stomach ricocheted through my body bouncing off of my heart, my liver, my lungs. I became very warm, and then very cold. It was short but it was enough. That kiss changed things tremendously, we were candid and alive with a new excitement, striped to our bare, naked emotions when our eyes met afterwards. He looked anxious, breathless, and a light burned deep behind his dark eyes. I don’t know what I looked like, coquettish, I’m sure, as I lowered my eyes and bit my bottom lip. A fire spread across my cheeks.
“Look at me” he commanded as he grabbed my chin and turned my face to his. A throaty chuckle rumbled from him as he took pride in my uncharacteristic shyness.
“Can it be that I silenced the perpetually chatty Miss Wickham?” he laughed at me again, and pride was alight in his face. I did nothing to stay his feelings of masculine dominance when only bumbling, unintelligible mumblings bubbled from my lips; incoherent protests that he quickly silenced with another kiss. More ardent this time, empowered by his confidence in my obvious defeat by his ardor. I giggled stupidly remembering the music, pulled away and lamented:
“This song! It’s all wrong!” He made a great show of turning the CD back to “Moonlight Serenade”, then pulled me back onto his shoulder. We sat there in silence for the duration of the song. The awful Lucky Milliander song came on again, and he kissed me again. I rolled my eyes at his joke. Suddenly the Notre Dame fight song started screaming from the location of my purse, my phone was ringing. I scrambled to answer it, breaking the moment and reminding us that there was a world outside of the two of us. My parents were demanding my return to home, I was surprised that it was almost one in the morning. I allowed Tom to walk me to my car and kiss me goodnight. He watched me drive out of the lot before he went back to his car. I drove home hardly knowing where I was going. I had to rely on muscle memory to get me home, so addled were my thoughts.
I feel asleep that night thinking of those short moments over and over again, feeling my stomach rocket excitedly throughout my body with each remembrance.
Awww, aren’t you all just warm and gooey now?
Also, I might add that the first story happened while at Butler, and the two Toms mentioned are different ones.
I would have changed the second Tom’s name, but I don’t work that way.