I was incredibly tame in high school. I never smoked, I never drank, I never went out. The first time I smoked a cigarette was after the last baseball game of my high school career, late in the spring of my senior year. I never drank until college. I never took a date to prom; in fact, I never went to a single dance or went on a single date. Or kissed a girl.
Well, I drink and smoke more now than I did then, and even though I've still never been to a dance or been on a date, I have kissed a girl. High five.
I made it through an entire semester without getting remotely close. Or remotely trying. To be honest, I wasn't that interested. I was more focused on drinking vast quantities of beer and then making it to class the next morning.
Along with my cousin Jake and his roommate Zach, I went out every night for the first two weeks of school. Every night, we'd go to the beer store for a thirty pack of Keystone Light, split it between the three of us, and then head out to whichever upperclassmen's house was having a party to see who could get the most phone numbers.
It was a pretty sweet setup. We got along with all the seniors, who had all the apartments and all the houses and threw all the parties. That meant, for the rest of the freshmen, being friends with us meant you could get in to the cool parties. So the numbers weren't hard to come by.
Seven nights a week for the first two weeks (and five or six nights a week after we slowed down a little), we'd each have our ten beers and then make a call or two, encouraging the company we'd selected for the night to make sure to "bring a friend! Bring three!"
The first few months were too busy a torrent of collecting phone numbers to leave any time to call them, to follow up, to close the sale. Forget the "wait three days" rule – girls were getting pushed six, seven days back just because the schedule was packed until then. We had to split up some nights to make sure we were going out with all of the right people often enough, make sure that the queue wasn't getting too long.
But of course, the number of numbers we had to go through was limited. On November 1st, for the first time, we did not go out on a weekend night. As December rolled around, our really intense partying nights were cut down to four or five nights a week. The numbers, although they were still coming, were dwindling. There were only so many girls at the school.
By the end of the semester, Zach had met his future wife, and they were getting serious. Jake had begun another dysfunctional relationship (he had a history). We were still the biggest carousers on the campus, but we weren't as rabidly devoted to the cause of partying as we had been at the start.
Early in the second semester was the annual out-door backwoods barbecue party that the school put on – probably the biggest party of the year. Everyone was there – pretty much everyone in the whole school. That meant that the three of us were going to be stretched to our limits. Add to this the fact that my foot had been run over by a drunk senior girl in a minivan two nights before and I was on crutches, and it was promising to be even busier.
In preparation for a long night when we might be too busy taking care of every Jilly and Jane in the wide forest to have a beer or two, we made sure to drink extra beforehand. Actually, the beer distributors were closely watched at the school parties too, and since we weren't twenty-one, that ought to have been a problem – and more reason to drink beforehand since you can't get your share at the party. Problem was, all the senior friends we had would insist on getting us beers and making us slam them behind the port-a-potties pretty much all night. But we didn't know this at that point. So we drank with gusto.
After fifteen to twenty beers, we drove over to catch the bus that would take us to the hayride that would take us to the party. Zach pulled up near the cul-de-sac where the buses were waiting, finished the last of a beer and threw up all over his own running board. We declared ourselves ready.
The next four hours were a blur. I actually ended up in a different hay-truck than Jake and Zach because I couldn't keep up on crutches, and I didn't see them again for the rest of the party.
After talking to them afterwards, I know it was just as chaotic for them as it was for me. One conversation, one group, one excuse, one promise to hang out after another – dashing back and forth between desperate friend-sets for five minute intervals by claiming to each that I was going to the bathroom.
For the duration of the party I felt like one of those airline pilots you read about who have two or three different families across the country or across the world that they only see for four months out of the year and still manage to convince them that "you are the ones I really care about, I really love, I really want to be with."
If you're good, you can make them believe it.
As the party wound down, and the hay-trucks took more and more revelers back to campus, I found myself talking to a girl who had been pushed to the “hang out with her once every two weeks” folder in the queue. Her name was Aida, she was from Mexico, and she was actually pretty cute and pretty cool, but her English wasn't great, so hanging out with her took a high level of concentration. Hence the two weeks folder status.
Ha! I just searched for her on Facebook and she's actually really cute! I didn't remember exactly what she looked like, to be honest. Just like I don't really remember what we were talking about, just that after about twenty minutes, she said, "can I kiss you?"
I said ok, so she did. And there we were, standing pretty much in the middle of an emptying party. I'm on crutches, I'm supposed to be playing it cool, keeping everyone happy, and instead I'm straight up mugging down, and I mean wet from my nose to the tip of my chin, teeth-clacking against each other mugging down.
And who better to tap my shoulder no more than twenty seconds into the affair than my older sister. Yes, honestly. She was a senior, I was a freshman, and this display was most extremely inappropriate.
So I said, "oh, hi. Nice to see you to. You're leaving? Oh, I think I'm going to stay. Oh, I'm coming with you? I'm too much of an embarrassment to stay and you can't even believe you're talking to me? Oh, ok. See you later, Aida."
My sister walked me to the hayrides most solemnly, while I attempted to agree with her decision and simultaneously make light of the dire awkwardness by reinventing the lyrics of Aretha Franklin's famous "Respect" to spell out "R-E-T-A-R-D-E-D!" which I sang the whole way. I meant it to apply to myself, but I don't know if she got that.
And that's the story of my first kiss. Romantic, or what?