If you asked me about my first kiss prior to 2005, I may have lied and told you it happened at a birthday party in 8th grade. That’s not because I’m a habitual liar, but because being older than 12 and never having been kissed seemed absolutely humiliating. Unacceptable, I’d decided. So I would tell a sweet story to seem more normal. You know, for social survival.
Most of the aspects of my fake first kiss story were true. Cora Casasamo had thrown a birthday party in her basement in 8th grade. We really had played spin the bottle, with Nelly’s Hot in Hurr blasting in the background. That part was all real. On Zigmund Giopierri’s turn, he really had gotten up, walked right across the circle and sat down beside me. He really had swung his arm around my shoulders and declared, “I don’t need a bottle to tell me who to kiss.”
It was just a cruel twist of fate that that was the exact second that Cora’s mom chose to fling open the basement door, candle flames lighting up the dark basement. Zig and I sprang apart from each other and joined in singing happy birthday to Cora. Our interrupted moment never resumed, and Zig started dating Nia Sondaz just a week later. But I clung to that near first kiss story like a social buoy.
My actual first kiss was three painfully long years later. By then I’d pretty much accepted the fact that I was abnormal, undesirable, unkissable, though I wouldn’t let anyone know it. At that point, I’d started working at my first ever part-time job. I ran the pantry section at Alpson’s family restaurant, tossing salads and plating desserts.
I’d acquired the Sunday morning prep shift that none of my coworkers wanted because it had a 7am start time. I’d have all morning to chop the fresh vegetables for the salads we’d serve for lunch and dinner that day. Despite the undesirable nature of this shift, I actually loved it. I loved the stillness of the restaurant before it opened to the public. I loved how big and empty it felt.
But most of all, I loved that the Sunday opening server was Logan Lowly. I’d had a crush on Logan since the very first day I’d met him at Alpson’s. I loved how loud and unabashedly outgoing he was. I loved how much attention he paid to me. How he didn’t seem to have any idea that I was a social misfit, a loser. He offered me rides home at night after our shifts before I was even old enough to have my learner’s permit. He treated me like he treated all the pretty girls at Alpson’s and that made me feel normal.
Sunday mornings with Logan were special. Much more intimate than a crazy night shift. He’d waltz in around 9am and put on a pot of coffee. Slowly, we’d go about our set-ups with only each other to talk to in the dining room. We talked a lot, joked and flirted sometimes. He told me about his tumultuous relationship with his girlfriend Robyn. Then one Sunday morning he said they’d broken up.
The next Sunday, Logan started telling me about how back when he was in high school, girls never wanted to kiss him. The conversation made me uncomfortable because Logan didn’t know my own deep dark secret, that I myself had never kissed a soul. He seemed to be sure that I had. And I did my best to pretend it was true. He told me how he used to plan to trick girls into kissing him, by asking them for a kiss on the cheek, then turning his face last second, so they were kissing on the lips.
“I don’t think that would actually work,” I teased him. “Any girl would jump away if she actually didn’t want to kiss you.”
“Oh yeah?” He challenged. “Try me. Come give me a kiss on the cheek.”
Confident, empowered, I marched right up to him. I puckered my lips and aimed for his cheek, but he turned his head as promised. I didn’t jump away. Somehow, it still caught me off guard. I didn’t think he would actually go through with it. But there it was. My actual first kiss. Not at a basement at 12, but in a salad bar at 15.
It felt like I’d been waiting a lifetime for it to happen.