My hand was sweaty inside his, and I was desperate for the movie to be over. Josh was shorter than me, which isn’t unusual when you’re 13; he had freckles, spiky hair, and a face that resembled a mouse.
He was my first boyfriend and I would daydream about him while I sat in the bathtub. Josh had previously dated another girl for 2 months and in middle school this was considered very serious; we all thought they would get married one day.
A couple days after locking sweaty hands at the movie theater Josh dumped me. While I was waiting in line for lunch, his best friend Chris came and told me the bad news.
“Josh is dumping you, I’m sorry,” he said, his big eyes staring up at me with fear or sadness, I couldn’t really tell.
“Fuck you Chris, you look like Steve Buscemi,” I said angrily.
“Who’s that?” I heard, as I stormed away.
Later that day in Tech Ed I walked in to see Josh and his ex-girlfriend were back together. She told the whole class I was jealous, so I told everyone she had an STD. Ironically, through a quick Facebook stalking session, I have discovered that she is now a lesbian.
By the time I was 15 I was sexually inexperienced, desperate for a real boyfriend, and I had yet to have my first kiss.
It was the summer before Sophomore year when I added Alex on Myspace. His page was black and red, and his theme song was Metallica. He was a popular guy; in high school this is based on the fact that he was football captain, and was known to throw the best parties. Although a high school party in Maine was just a beer pong table in the middle of a cold room, and 10 people taking photos of a passed out guy with a dick drawn on his face in black Sharpie.
He asked me to come to a party and I said yes, hoping I would snag a boyfriend and some much needed popularity. I told my parents I was going to the movies and he would pick me up downtown, like a true rebel. I wore my favorite white shorts that made my legs look tan, and a brown, floaty tank top that I was later told looked like a picnic tablecloth. I brought my Palm Pilot, and put it in the front pocket of my shorts to look like a cute accessory. I didn’t have a phone yet but if there was an awkward silence I could take it out and pretend I was busy texting, and had a social life.
As I walked downtown, a chill began to creep up on me in the night air (or was that my intuition?) and I waited at the spot he said he would meet me. Twenty minutes later I saw a pair of headlights and a Jeep pull up with him in the passenger seat and his friend driving. I hopped in and he made a joke that he was thinking of just leaving me there and not coming. I giggled, hoping I sounded flirtatious. When you’re 15 your radar for assholes is non-existent, and it will go up only slightly by the age of 25.
Drinking the Kool-Aid
This supposed party was just 4 or 5 people hanging out and talking. I was handed a travel mug with what tasted like Kool-Aid. Alex told me this was “jungle juice” and it had tons of alcohol that I couldn’t taste. Eventually everyone started drifting off to their own conversations and I sat on the couch and closed my eyes, needing a rest. Suddenly, I felt lips touch mine, so naturally I moved my lips as well and realized I was experiencing my first kiss.
Oh! Pure bliss, Disney fireworks, shooting stars, butterflies in a mason jar! Wrong. He was a good kisser from what I could tell. He had soft lips that knew what they were doing, but unfortunately were attached to a teenage boy and not Brad Pitt. He pushed me back on the couch, stuck his hand down my pants, and pushed his fingers in me. It felt awful but I had never experienced this before (not even from my own hand) and just assumed he was doing it right.
He grabbed my hand and stood me up, flashing his eyebrows up and down at me. I was dizzy and exhausted. He led me into an office/study with a futon that we fell on to. I could feel him getting hard so I stuck my hand down his pants. It was the size of a cocktail wiener; I should have been carrying toothpicks.
After 20 minutes of quite a bit of dry humping on his part, I looked out the window behind me, at the pine trees, and realized the sun was rising on a cloudy day. My friend and her boyfriend opened the door, saw us in a half naked state and gasped. Alex sarcastically said “Hey guys”and smiled. I grabbed my clothes and walked out seeing this as the perfect opportunity to make my exit.
When I got home I braced myself for the torrential storm of anger my parents were sure to unleash. I had never stayed out all night or gone to a party, so I did what any teenager would do, I lied. I was tired, hungover, and not in the mood to chat so my parents harassed me from outside my bedroom door while I laid under a blanket waiting for my roof to stop spinning. There were still plastic, glow in the dark stars I had stuck up there as a kid, and I continued staring until they turned into one big blur.
An Introduction to Ghosting
A couple days later I tried to message Alex on AIM. He acted cold and distant, and eventually started ignoring me, or as we call it in this day and age, ghosting. I began doubting myself; what went wrong? Why didn’t he like me? Why didn’t he want me? I sent him a long and embarrassing message telling him how much I liked him and it went unanswered. I flushed my dignity down the toilet at the same time. I was desperate to give more meaning to my first sexual encounter than it really had.
Later that night I went to see the Fourth of July fireworks. I looked at the stars, heard the explosions around me, the red and blue glare lit up my tear filled eyes and I wished he would message me back. My parents noticed that I wasn’t talking much and seemed wrapped up in my own thoughts. I had my first teenage outburst which involved a furious, Exorcist scream at the dinner table and told them to mind their own business; my dad asked if I wanted more noodles. Later that summer I went to Europe for three weeks as only a proper lady does when she is getting over a guy. This was the first time I realized that running away from your problems actually works, especially if you run away to a different country.
In 8th grade I had a massive crush on one of my good friends; Willy. He was tall, with a chiseled jawline and deep, chocolate brown eyes. I knew he liked me because when we were talking at lunch he noticed I was cold, so he went to his locker and brought me his sweatshirt. It was a blue Under Armor, and it smelled like cologne; I refused to take it off the rest of the day. He had been dating a girl in high school for a few months, but this didn’t stop me from lusting over him. The kind of lusting that meant I was daydreaming of him being the Ryan Gosling to my Rachel McAdams. I would sit in science class and daydream about all kinds of scenarios that involved him declaring his love for me. I was Keira Knightley and he was Mr. Darcy walking up to me through the fog of the early morning, talking about his bewitched body and soul.
Every year, our middle school had a sort of prom for the eighth graders since they would be entering high school after that; it was called The Fancy Dance. While my friend Janet was sleeping over at my house we stuck our heads together in a meeting that resembled a NATO summit. I told her to call Willy and let him know that I didn’t have a date yet, and that I really wanted to go with him, but of course this was just a secret between them, wink wink. Like clockwork, he called me 10 minutes later and asked me to the dance; I was beyond excited. Janet and I, jumping on my old, creaky bed, turned up the radio and listened to that “Bad Day” song that was played repeatedly for an entire year before people protested that they had had enough.
My parents took me to Macy’s to buy a dress, waiting outside the dressing room for 2 hours so as not to hurt my very fragile teenage self esteem. I bought a white dress with a halter neck, and poofy skirt. Fortunately it gave me a small amount of what I considered boobs. I also got a pair of sparkly silver high heels that gave my feet blisters by the end of the night but made me feel like a real woman. My mom had taken me to the dollar store to buy glittery makeup, and a curling iron so I could do my hair in ringlets.
When Willy picked me up he made one of those gasps like he couldn’t believe his eyes and told me I looked beautiful; I was a smitten kitten. We sat in the car silently, his parents in the front, and nobody making any effort to minimize the awkwardness. I was beginning to sweat under my dress. We went to eat with a big group of friends at a seafood restaurant called the Weathervane. I felt so smug when Willy paid for my caesar salad, especially when another girl stormed out when her date didn’t pay for her.
At the dance, his girlfriend was waiting outside since her mom was on the decorating committee. She made sure to tell Willy how “cute” I looked (I wanted to stab her in the eyeball ghetto style with my new silver high heels.) That night, high on delicious red punch with sherbert, we slow danced to a song from the “What a Girl Wants”soundtrack and I put my head on his shoulder. If Willy had turned into Freddie Prinz Jr. my life would have hit peak perfection.
Two years later, before I moved to Louisiana I was forced to start my Junior year of high school in Maine for two weeks so I wouldn’t get in trouble for truancy. That summer I had got bigger boobs, and bought some short skirts. On the first day of school, I walked into Algebra and realized I was lucky enough to be sitting in front of Willy. The sexually developed woman in me hoped his name would speak for itself. Summer had treated him well too, as he had bigger arm muscles and started growing facial hair. During a lesson in class I felt him poke my back asking me about variables, and from there we began passing notes back and forth. Things got really deep; he asked things like “What are you doing after school?” and “How was your lunch?” We were practically a couple already.
After a few days, Willy passed me a note that said we should “hang out” after school, and I agreed. He picked me up in his old Toyota and we drove to Blockbuster to buy movies. I picked out one of the SAW movies and he told me how cool it was that I didn’t watch “chick flicks.” I took it as such a big compliment that finally I was a “cool girl,” or as we call it now, “a girl who can hang,” whatever the hell that means. We spent the next week laying in his bed and watching movies, while he occasionally did chemistry homework. I would pretend to be scared during the horror movies so I could cuddle into his chest. When I got home each night, I would put on his Under Armour sweatshirt, breathing in the scent of Axe deodorant while I fell asleep. He was a comfort to me in that last week; I clung to him like I was clinging to this place I had grown up in.
His bedroom walls were all wood and slanted, reminding me of an attic. When I looked up, Halle Berry in a blue sparkly bikini stared back at me. I came over a little earlier in the afternoon one day and we sat in the living room with his parents, and a couple friends who were over. I didn’t know anyone and I sat there in silence feeling completely uncomfortable, and awkward. However, this did give me time to observe this environment I had spent a week in. I stared with horror at all the brown couches, and plaid pillows. Deer heads were attached to the walls. When I look back, I realize I was dodging a bullet (probably from a hunting rifle.)
A Regular Casanova
Willy and I went through all the motions of a relationship within a week. Willy was what you might call a “serial monogamist.” He was in a relationship every few months. Every one of my friends had been with him, and he had been in love no less than 4–5 times just in high school. He was a regular Casanova, the guy every girl wanted to be their boyfriend. He was the type who would bring you flowers and a 12 page love letter on your 2 week anniversary because it was the gentlemanly thing to do.
On my last night in Belfast I went to the football game; Willy was captain and he had given me his football uniform to wear. It was about 30 degrees but I wouldn’t have put a sweater on even if I were climbing Everest. I wanted everyone to know that I was his, at least for a night. It was an especially proud moment for me when Alex, the guy who had stuck his fingers in me and then ghosted, saw whose jersey I was wearing.
After the game Willy asked me if I needed a ride home. As we drove, Eminem blaring through the speakers, I told him I would miss him, and I would (I had crushed on him since the 6th grade). When we pulled into my driveway, I gave him back his uniform and hugged him. He let out a yelp and I realized I was hugging too hard and his ribs were digging into the middle panel. I got out and walked to my door, expecting he would stare at me fondly, thinking of me as the one who got away. But, he was already pulling out of my driveway before I could turn and take a last look at him through the bright headlights of his Toyota.
I went upstairs, sat on my bed and cried. I wasn’t really crying over him, but at the loss of something I didn’t quite understand. The loss of what my life could have been: a senior year dating a popular football player, a prom, and graduation.
The next day we got into our car and drove down Congress St. for the last time. I watched the quaint, historical houses pass me by. I still can’t quite explain what I felt; it was a mix of nostalgia, of wanting to stay forever, and longing to never go back.