First Kisses


My friend, Brooke Moss, has me thinking about first kisses.

There are a variety of first kisses. The first kiss behind the dumpster when you were in third grade. That first kiss, when, as a teenager, you knew what it really meant. The first time you kissed your first love. That first kiss with the person who would become your spouse.

Some of them are sweet and tender. Some are so brief you might actually wonder if you have been kissed. Some are so mind-numbingly passionate that your toes still curl years later just thinking about it.

This is not a story of any of those, because it’s the story of my first kiss, and with me… things don’t turn out the way I planned them. And no, I’m not talking about the one behind the dumpster in third grade with Alex. That was idle curiosity, and doesn’t count. Actually, this one probably shouldn’t either, but I count it anyway, because it was the kiss I really wanted that… wasn’t.

I was seventeen. A late bloomer, obviously, but that’s what happens when you’re pathologically shy and nerdy. And I really was pathologically shy. I know no one believes this now, but I was so shy I was terrified to order at McDonald’s. Not nervous. Terrified. I couldn’t do it. I made others do it for me all through high school.

So now that we’ve established that, let’s get into the context of the kiss that almost was.

Like I said, I was seventeen, and I was in Germany. Alone. Well, not necessarily alone, but I may as well have been. My host sister was somewhat more social than I was, and on the hunt for a new boyfriend, so I spent a lot of time alone at parties, where I knew no one and barely spoke the language. I probably would have done better had it not been for the pathological shyness, but let’s face it, I could barely speak in English to strangers, let alone members of the opposite sex. Forget about speaking in German. My mind would go blank and my eyes would roll back in my head and to the question, “How are you?” I’d stammer something insanely stupid like,

“Ich bin Maedchen.” I am a girl.

Brilliant.

I was dreaming in German, I was reading Johanna Lindsey’s books in German, and it wasn’t like I didn’t understand the question. The problem was whenever I tried to speak, the words got all tangled up and I wound up sounding like the village idiot. So you can imagine how isolating that was. Or how very irritated the host sister was with me, because it’s hard to find a boyfriend when the girl you’re with is an utter nincompoop.

In any case, the host sister and I went to an outdoor movie, and I was relieved to find out the movie was in English: The Commitments. Fireflies danced, torches lit the way, the night was balmy. Sultry. It was the first night where I was actually having a good time. Maybe because I understood what was going on. Maybe because my illustrious companion was, for a change, not roaring drunk and blowing some guy in the backseat of the car. Maybe because, when she did run off, she didn’t leave me alone.

His name was Jan, and he was wearing a black t-shirt that said Iowa and faded black denim. He watched the host sister and his friend leave and then said, in beautiful, perfect English, “You’re pretty. Want to sit down?”

I did. Quietly. Because that’s how I did everything back then.

“So, where are you from?”

I told him. Sat in silence for awhile.

“So,” I said, casting around for something to talk about, and praying I didn’t choke on the words, “Iowa, huh?”

Yeah, yeah, my come-on lines were fabulous. Whatever. It worked.

“Yeah.”

“Why Iowa?” I pressed. “What’s there to do in Iowa?”

“What’s there to do in Nevada?”

“Point taken.”

He smiled, and it was lovely. He stood up and took my hand and we walked around the grounds. And I was instantly enamored, which probably had more to do with the fact that he was nice to me than anything else. I don’t remember him being especially attractive. But he was nice, and he said I was pretty, and I was watching a movie in English outside a freaking castle. There were torches and fireflies and twinkling stars.

What’s a girl not to love about that setting? It was breathtakingly romantic. I probably would’ve made out with an old shoe had it said a kind word to me and been remotely interested.

But, this isn’t about an old shoe.

In any case, we talked and we laughed as we wandered the castle grounds. When the movie came on, we watched it. Afterwards, we wandered some more.

If you had asked me at that moment, I would have sworn I’d found the one.

Eventually, the night wore on and we got back to our table to wait for our mutual friends.

And then it happened.

He leaned in, and my heart palpitated with the sudden knowledge that finally, I was going to be kissed. And oh, how I wanted it.

I took a step forward to get closer.

And tripped over a stick and went crashing into him.

Our mouths met, alright.

Only it was less about lips and tongues and hot stuff than it was about a chipped tooth (him) and a fat lip (me).

Yes, I really am the girl who came away from her first kiss looking like she’d just lost a bar fight.

But, to this day, I love, love, love the movie The Commitments.

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