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The First Kiss

April 23, 2014

         If any girls were attracted to me in high school, I was and am still ignorant of it. This may help explain why my first kiss happened when I was 19 years old.

          First, let me qualify that. When I say “my first kiss”, I mean a real kiss. A kiss that has meaning, not the “Truth or Dare” on the 6th grade school bus variety of kiss. No, no. I mean the type where there is some passion, some desire, possibly a little romance. That is the kiss I’m talking about. That is the kiss I got when I was 19 years old.

          It wasn’t totally from a lack of trying that caused me to be “a late bloomer”. “Late bloomer”…..What a terrible thing to call someone. What is the technical definition of a “late bloomer”? Is it someone who liked girls when they were a small child, but didn’t say so because girls were “icky”, even though having an open crush on Jaclyn Smith and Lynda Carter at the age of 3 constitutes liking girls? I had crushes on normal girls when I was little too. I had a crush on my neighbor, Jennifer Massey, when I was 4. I also had a crush on one of the college-age girls who worked at my day care when I was 4, Danielle Sutter in kindergarten and first grade, Suzanne Robertson in second grade, Kimmie Wheeler in third grade, and so on. You get the picture.

          The first girl I ever publicly proclaimed my interest in was Stacey Gibson in sixth grade. She was the cutest little thing I had ever seen. She dated most of my friends, but never me. I had thick, Coke-bottle glasses back then. That probably didn’t help. This sort of thing went on for years and years. I would like a girl, and while I wouldn’t always come right out and tell her that I liked her, I didn’t do a very good job of hiding how I felt. I was usually pretty obvious. I rarely asked girls out in high school, but when I did the answer was always “No”. So, it wasn’t for a lack of trying, really. The term “late bloomer” just seems like piling on top of all of the years of rejection.

          So it came to pass in the summer of 1994, more than a year after graduating from high school, that I met Jodie. I had been working at the Winn-Dixie on Fort Caroline Road since January of 1990. There had been a revolving door of attractive girls there that I had crushes on throughout the years, both employees and customers. I was upfront with a few about how I felt, but most of them I admired from afar. I admired Jodie from afar, but I made the fortunate mistake of telling our off-duty police officer/security guard, Miles McChriston. Miles was a huge, muscle-bound, former football player. He had been on the practice squads for both the Jacksonville Bulls (the old USFL team) and the Dallas Cowboys. He was intimidating as hell, but also a really nice guy. Anyway, when Miles spoke, you listened to what he had to say. “Why don’t you go up to her and ask her out?” He asked.

          “No way! You’re crazy!” I responded to his insane suggestion.

          Jodie was 16 at the time. She was shorter than me, probably about 5’1” or 5’2”, she had brown hair that was cut just above her shoulders, blue eyes, and a cute nose which my description of cannot do justice. Her nose was longer than average and slightly pointed, and turned up a little, but by no means was it unattractive. She had a wide mouth, which gave way to a warm, wide smile. She was very cute. She was neither fat nor skinny, but in that happy medium. She had meat in just the right places. From what I could tell, she seemed to be very nice. She went to a local Baptist church with a lot of other nice people I knew. I figured they all rubbed off on each other there. She also appeared to be intelligent and well-spoken. I say “seemed to be” and “appeared” because I had been too scared to actually strike up a conversation beyond “Do you need any help bagging this?” or “Do you need any help cleaning that?”

          In the weeks prior to my conversation with Miles, Jodie had been seeing Mike Parker, another co-worker of ours. Now typically I wouldn’t have considered stepping on the toes of another co-worker in order to date a girl, but Mike Parker was different. Mike Parker was an ass.

          Up to that point I had never met someone so arrogant without cause. Mike was tall and thin, very thin, like bony thin. I remember that he used to wear sleeveless undershirts under his work shirts. He would often take off the work shirt when we were stocking shelves at night, or unloading dairy, or for any reason really. He seemed to be quite proud of his bony, bird chest and prominent collarbone. “Bird chest” is appropriate because with his tall, thin, lanky frame, his long, thin, sharp, pointy beak of a nose, and his buzz cut, he looked like a stork. He looked like the Vlasic Stork. Before they were called “wife beaters”, those sleeveless undershirts were often called “muscle tees”. One time I said to him, “You in a ‘muscle tee’ is an oxymoron.” His response to me was that he was going to kick my ass. That ass-kicking never materialized. He was full of self-puffery, false bravado, and not much else. I wasn’t scared.

          Not that I was some magnificent specimen of a man. I was short. I still am short. I’m only 5’6”. I had a full head of hair, a lot of it actually, and was fairly fit and mostly lean. I had slight love handles, but my pants size was only 28, not like now. I couldn’t run a mile, but I had a good chance of winning a short distance race. I did have rather pronounced forearms back then, so pronounced that a few people called me “Popeye”. This was more than likely from swinging a baseball bat in my backyard a lot and from bagging groceries, lifting bags of manure and water softener salt, and from stocking shelves for so many years. I wasn’t bad looking. At least, I felt I was better looking than the Vlasic stork.

          Jodie had just broken up with Mike. Miles, being pushy and a busybody, took it upon himself to let Jodie know that I thought she was cute. I was glad that he did. It just so happened that she needed a ride home from work that day so, I drove her home. We had a nice, friendly conversation loaded with small talk on the way to her house. I walked her to the door and then I left. No hug, no kiss. That would have been pushing it. I was a little excited at the prospect of seeing her again in the next few days though. In the meantime, we would talk a little because I got them digits!

          We spoke briefly a few times over the next few days. I saw her at work once, but was busy doing projects, so I didn’t get to talk to her enough in person for my taste. This was all fine though because she had asked me to come over to her house on Friday night. She had invited her friends Annie and Shelly over, and wanted me to come over to hang out with them. Things were set in motion.

          I arrived at Jodie’s house that Friday night and she was there with her friends and her brother. They were eating pizza and had just begun watching the Maggie Smith version of The Secret Garden. Her mother was in the master bedroom.

          I was happy to be there, but things seemed odd from the get-go. I sat on the floor, so that my nearsighted eyes could see the TV. She then sat on the couch. She seemed to avoid conversation. I told her that I wanted to meet her mom. That was important to me. I don’t know why now, but it was important to me then. It didn’t seem important to her though. I wasn’t sure why she might not want me to meet her mother. After feeling stalled for about 30 minutes, I decided to go introduce myself to her mother. That was a mistake.

          I walked down the hall, despite Jodie’s objections, and saw her mother’s bedroom door wide open. I began to walk in, introducing myself, “Hi, I’m Rob….” but was shocked to find her mother with her back to me, bending over in just a shirt and underwear, pulling up a pair of pants. Without even turning around, she yelled, “Get out!” I ran out of there, sweating, red-faced, and embarrassed as hell. I probably should have been more embarrassed for her, but my own mortification won out.

          “I met your mother….” I said, nervously half-laughing and half-dying as I rushed back into the den. Without missing a beat, Jodie’s mother yelled down the hall, “Jodie! Come here!”

          I sat frozen in fear. This night was not going as planned and was going to end before it began. Jodie got up and went to her mother’s room. She came back a few minutes later, looking pissed. “I told you not to go back there!”

          “I’m sorry. I just wanted to meet your mother. I didn’t understand why you wouldn’t let me meet her.” I apologized with emphasis on the pleading. She didn’t respond. The air became thick with discomfort. I wasn’t sure how much more I could stand. I attempted to get past it.

          “Why don’t you come sit down on the floor with me?” I pleaded.

          “No. I want to sit here,’ she stated matter-of-factly from the couch.

          “Okay…” was the only response I could muster.

          A few more minutes passed at this excruciating pace before Jodie had to use the bathroom. I had had enough by that time, so when she was in the bathroom, I walked out the front door and started for my blue 1988 Chevy Spectrum to take myself home. As I stuck the key in the ignition, Jodie came running out of the house. “Where are you going?!” She implored.

          “I’m going home. You obviously don’t want me here. You’ve ignored me since I got here.”

          “I’m sorry. I just didn’t know what to do, or what to say to you. Please stay.” She was now the one doing the pleading.

          “Okay, but I don’t want to go back inside.” I stated with conviction.

          “Okay. That’s fine. We can go for a walk. Okay?” She smiled.

          “Okay.” I was finally able to say with a smile.

          She went back inside for just a minute to get her jacket, and to tell Annie and Shelly that we were going for a walk. She needed a jacket because, though it was summer and was warm and humid, there was a light breeze blowing. It really was a beautiful night. We began to walk around her neighborhood. It was a fine neighborhood, but even more so in the dark. It was nice and quiet. The homes were older, like from the 50’s or 60’s, but they were kept up with well-manicured lawns and shade trees lining the streets. There were streetlights, but they were not intrusive to our walk by moonlight. The moon was three-quarters full, which gave just the right amount of light in order to see each other, and I look better in dim light, so that was a plus. There was a calming sense of stillness as we walked around. I can’t remember anything we said, but I brazenly grabbed her hand. She didn’t pull away. We held hands and slowly walked around the bend of her street, coming up just short of her house. We stood under a willow tree that hung over the street, cascading upon anyone walking too close to the curb. I looked up and could see the moon peeking at us through the willow branches. Then I admitted to her that, “I’ve never kissed anyone before.”

          “Really? Let’s fix that,” she leaned into me. I leaned down, pulling her body to mine, and with our arms tightly holding each other, we kissed. It was amazing, to say the least. I had never felt anything like it before. All at once I felt queasy, excited, weak in the knees, and ready to run a mile. To risk a cliché, I heard fireworks, but really, I literally heard fireworks. The Jacksonville Suns were playing at the baseball stadium downtown and someone must have hit a homerun at that exact moment!

          “Are you sure you’ve never kissed a girl before?” She asked. I blushed. “No. Never,” I said sheepishly.

          “Hmm. That’s surprising. You’re a good kisser.” I blushed even more.

          “You’re not so bad yourself.” I said with great confidence, right before going back in. Score!

          The kisses got longer, deeper, and more passionate, and after adjourning to her backyard, they lasted for about two more hours! I finally knew what I had been missing out on for so many years, and I wasn’t about to stop anytime soon if I could help it.

          She eventually got worried about leaving her friends for so long, so we went back inside and the mood inside was much lighter than it had been earlier in the evening, and her mom never came out of her room.

          Unfortunately, the flame that was ignited that night could not be maintained, and was extinguished within a couple of weeks. However, to this day, I still consider that one of the greatest nights of my life, and certainly one of the most important, and Jodie and I are still friends to this day.

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