The autumn leaves hugged the cold earth- strewn across concrete paths and shifting the landscape, blending the secondary colors. Earthworms searched out refuge in the grass, writhing in one last stretch or squirm to make up ground, only to be met by the rising temperature and the early morning sun. So close, but not today… and I know how they felt.
I kicked the leaves and felt the crunch under toe as each one petrified under the soles of my generic Airwalk sneakers. Man, to be a kid again- not this forty year old man, and nobody bothered to tell me I was no longer cool. That didn’t hurt so much as the effort going unnoticed.
There was something in the air that morning that felt different. I had walked the kids to the bus everyday but there was a mounting cliché that kept surfacing. “It feels good to be alive”. The benevolence of the thought was crowded with the hundred other thoughts that normally distanced me from serenity. What a strange mantra to cling to- this was like any other day, but I refused to blow it off.
I couldn’t help conjure up memories of my first real girlfriend. You know, the one where I would think of her in each waking hour at least one, two or a thousand times. No need to pay attention to my 5th period English teacher, that shrill voice jawing about 16th century literature. I tapped the snooze button on that one and just let alarm clock fall to the floor.
Michelle Emmit… and I know that my writing should include anonymity or I could leave it to just calling her “my first real girlfriend”, but what the hell. She was something of a boisterous thing- short hair unlike all the other freshmen girls and I’ll be honest, the only thing I noticed was her bubbly enthusiasm, and maybe her breasts that seemed unusually large for a girl her age. Of course there was a rivalry for her attention. I always had a best friend, or the closest friend of that school year pining for the affections of a girl I had already staked claim on. But I quickly won that battle and he moved on like pubescent boys often do.
There were little things to get you noticed at the time and mine was letter writing, often referred to as ‘notes’. It’s where we would hone our small talk skills that would later be used awkwardly over blaring speakers in clubs or dive-bars. We’d pass the notes back and forth and it was as if she lived across the sea in some foreign land, each new scribbled acknowledgement and the neatly folded square it came in revealing the awkwardness of our age. I can’t imagine what they said, maybe “God, I hate this class, I’d rather be with you” or “Can’t wait to see you in the hallway”. That was just like me I’m sure- a romantic who couldn’t yet define any real emotions. We were just kids though; there was little time for big words and even bigger expressions of feelings we didn’t understand.
Do you remember the time you held your first love’s hand? Those moments slip through the cracks, but they are there if you want them to be. We don’t need to let go of everything. Maybe I could let that one girl from college go. The one who came to my dorm room during my first semester smelling of baby powder and displaying a very fit body, despite her 5 month old being at home in some New Jersey suburb with a “Mee-Maw” or “Grammy”. I can’t remember the girls name so what’s the point in seeking out fine details?
But I still can’t tolerate the smell of baby powder.
Michelle was a different experience, the one adolescent memory that doesn’t care what shoes I’m wearing, despite the world inviting me to exchange them for Dockers pants and a faceless pair of casual work boots. She’d come over to ‘watch’ a movie and we’d quickly make our way underneath my parent’s old pool table, crooked and leaning to the southwest- a perfect hideaway for make-out sessions and shirtless escapades. The thought of sex was not yet a reality, it was too challenging, and far beyond our scope.
A seemingly endless exchange of saliva, the finite girl hairs- soft and supple above the crest of her top lip and the movement of tongues chasing each other within the small spaces and salty delivery of mouths—there never seemed to be enough, my lips pressing hers and hers against mine. I engulfed her feminine lines- smothering them at times, two young kids latched on and locked together. My hands seemed to hold more than they could handle with all the heavy petting in between. It was a moment I realized that Levi jeans had no place for a fifteen year old hard-on. It would have made sense to wear sweatpants, or better yet—those ridiculously patterned Crazee Wear pants bodybuilders used to wear. Baggy as hell, but they would have accommodated my ever hardening gesture.
I hope people don’t wear those hideous looking things any more.
Safe underneath the pool table, time stood still, and despite the clock still ticking- I suppose the only world that mattered was between two kids and their flourishing libidos. A magical place where the cold hard basement floor felt soft like bags of marshmallows and the TV stuttering in the background, merely a numbing soundtrack for this beautiful and unrelenting rite of passage. I can still picture her in that red sweater, pulled to excess by curves of a flowering young woman and wearing the fragrance of some popular perfume of the day, maybe CK for Girls or some overpowering scent that would set my allergies in motion today. The beauty of a moment in time is not lost on nostalgia, or clichés that are summoned in adulthood.
Some memories are worth hanging on to…