My first kiss was in the corner of my kindergarten classroom during cleanup. At five years old, I knew how to command a group of guys with a force I haven’t mastered since. On a good day, I had six or so devoted boyfriends trailing in the shadow of my basketball-sized scrunchie. I took off my shirt when I didn’t feel like wearing it and I loved to race the length of the Big Kids track.
It was after arts and crafts that Justin strode up and kissed me right on the mouth. He promptly turned on his heels and marched toward his cubby to gather his things to go home. He was wearing a navy turtleneck tucked into his sweatpants. Twelve years later, he would be a high school football god, 6’4″ with freckled brown skin and blue-green eyes.
Whenever I saw him swagger through our mint-colored hallways, I wondered if I was the only one who remembered; if maybe his first kiss was during a middle school dance and maybe a kiss in kindergarten isn’t real, and maybe the only reason I always say this was my first kiss is because I didn’t kiss someone again until I was sixteen.
Maybe my first kiss was with Doug as he walked me home in the violet dusk the summer of sophomore year. Maybe my first kiss was with Noah on the beer-soaked floor of a senior house as a freshman in college. Maybe my first kiss was with Chris on a soccer field in the warmth of early fall; maybe it was on Sidney’s bed when I tried to find his tongue with mine and couldn’t.
Maybe my first kiss was with Will. We fell into each other fast. Sitting next to him, I couldn’t remember how to hold my body. I moved like a marionette, arms stiff, eyes unblinking, for fear that any trace of normalcy might give away how badly I wanted to put my mouth on his mouth.
Before you ever kiss someone, you think: but how will it even work? And then you kiss someone and it’s easy and you come to understand that the pleasure receptors in the skin of your lips do most of the hard work. That nervousness, that excitement, is bundled up in your brain.
We consider the first kiss to be a rite of passage, but maybe it’s better described as a work in progress. I like to imagine every kiss that changes me — moves me closer toward someone else, or to myself — as a first kiss of sorts. The awkwardness is there; the hope is there. And every time, a little flash of that pre-first-kiss feeling: but how?