Posted by: facetothewind | October 31, 2003

First Kisses

First Kisses (written in workshop at Billy Club 10/31/03)

I grew up deep in the backwoods of Florida where Spanish moss drips from trees into the constricting gene pools of my youth. My high school classmates drive trucks with guns and confederate flags. Other than the token busload of black people driven to their integration into my class, it seems, that the civil war was lost on this seething town.

I’m 16 years old. I navigate my way around the crowded halls of Riverdale High School…we called it Riverjail…grasping for the attention of the cute boys….Dil Masuda, the Samoan boy with the fine black hair, Scott Garrett the guy with marbly white skin, Chan Brown the boy with big green eyes. These are the kids that would become a hair stylist, a born-again Christian, a Navy Seal. I wandered these halls chasing my lust for the 4 years of my containment.

It’s 1982 and it’s junior prom season. This means only one thing to me: the terror of conformity. This, I tell myself, is my last chance to prove my heterosexuality. In truth, I know I’m going to fail. My mother takes me to JC Penney to pick out a nice polyester double-stitched blazer. This, paired with some khaki pants and my earth shoes comprises the outfit that is supposed to court a young girl.

Faced with the looming date of the prom, I surrendered and asked Chere if she would be my date. She’s the ripe daughter of the owner of an Ace Hardware store from some town even more remote than Fort Myers. Her family is all abuzz that a boy has asked her to the prom as if this is the first step toward that eventual altar, marriage, children, obesity and old age. A future I’m certain is not mine. But for now I’m playing along.

I select the finest of carnation corsages, borrow the family Pontiac and drive the 12 miles to Chere’s house to take her to the prom. I drive beyond the city limits, out past Flora & Ella’s diner, over the river and past numerouss white-spired Baptist churches. In the car, there is that silent tension…each of us tense for different reasons. She, perhaps awaiting a first kiss, I wondering how I could avoid such a trauma.

The evening of kids of simple folk dressed up and feigning civility progresses while songs of the Village People, Styx and ELO ply the night. I find myself caught in that tractor beam of heterosexual ritual – the racquetball courts. OH GOD NO, the dreaded racquet ball courts! This is the place where boys promenade with their dates and steal kisses in the dark corners. It’s not exactly a night in Paris, but it’s what I’m faced with tonight.

Chere and I make our way out to a dark corner. Other couples have already staked their territories. Flashes of fake pink satin and blue polyester tuxedos are moving, rustling and moaning in the corners. I throw my arms around Chere and attempt to make this first kiss real. Our lips meet. There’s a coldness that I cannot ignore. The smell of her perfume turns my stomach. I find myself sneaking looks at the other boys. What are they doing? How do they do it? What would my first kiss be like if it was with one of them?

It was on this night, in the sultry dark corner of a racquetball court that I came to know my passion was not for this woman, nor for any woman. I never made it to my SENIOR prom and as for Chere? Well, let’s just say both of our corsages remained intact, unrumpled by the pressing of our bodies, returned to our respective worlds – our lives left in a passionless perfect order.

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