47: First Kiss, Last Kiss

47: First Kiss, Last Kiss

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

First Kiss, Last Kiss

We always believe our first love is our last,
and our last love our first.

~George John Whyte-Melville

It started and ended with a kiss on the cheek—the first peppered with chlorine and M&Ms, the last sweetened by the New York City night.

We were in sixth grade when it all began, when I entered into my first real “relationship” with a boy. Prior to middle school, I’d been the girl who loved boys from afar. I wrote in my journal about them (when I kept one) and constantly daydreamed about whether or not someone, anyone, would kiss me. I was a hopeless romantic even at the age of eleven.

But this was different. Ben liked me as much as I liked him, maybe more. He bought me presents and wrote me notes. We spoke online every day, for hours at a time, and were best friends. He told me all the time how pretty and smart he thought I was. The only thing missing was that all-important, all-encompassing kiss, and both of us were too shy and young to do anything to fill that void.

Until the end of seventh grade. Tired of waiting around for Ben, who was a good four inches shorter than me and a little on the wimpy side, I planned the moment thoroughly. My friend Diana was having a pool party to mark the end of the school year and I had big, kiss-on-the-cheek-filled plans.

Every night, I would get in bed and think about how it would work. I figured I had to swoop in after a hug, when we were already physically close, and just get it over with. I instant messaged my friends to discuss whether or not the plan was feasible and if he would even want me to kiss him, knowing full well he did. They assured me it was a foolproof plan, and I counted down the days till the party.

Finally, it came. After a day full of playing sharks and minnows, eating pizza, and tossing M&Ms up into the air and into each other’s mouths, the time to enact my master plan had come. My mom had arrived with the top down on her Mustang, waiting for me to leave the party and return home with her.

I signaled for her to wait a moment and ran to where Ben stood, his thin frame evident even beneath the T-shirt he had donned post-swim. I walked over to say goodbye and gave him a hug. As I pulled away, my lips ever-so-slightly brushed the line between his neck and his cheek. My first attempt at a kiss. I turned away immediately and hurried off, pinching my friend in the arm as she tried to comment on what she had just witnessed.

Immediately I felt guilty, as if my mom could sense what a loose woman I had become now that I had kissed a boy. It was scandalous, but I couldn’t wipe the goofy smile off my face. As I sat in the passenger seat of the convertible, looking at myself in the side view mirror, it occurred to me that this was the first time I had withheld anything from my mom.

Ben and I “dated” through eighth grade, finally breaking it off the summer before starting high school. It was hard to tell him that I was growing up and no longer felt for him what I had before, but I bravely called him—instant messenger was far too callous for the delicate situation of dumping someone—and told him I no longer loved him.

Six years later, when Ben and I were both in college in New York City, we made plans to see each other and reconnect. I made my way uptown to Columbia, taking the long subway ride and trying to suppress the jittery butterfly feeling in my stomach. I hadn’t seen him in a few years, since high school, and I wondered if finally he had grown taller than me.

What followed surprised me more than anything had in recent years—a new relationship with the boy I had adored for three of my formative adolescent years. Ben was, in fact, taller than me. He had grown into a handsome guy with many of the boyish traits I had fallen in love with in sixth grade. As far as I was concerned, he was still that first boy to acknowledge and return my affections—the first boy I ever really kissed.

And so it was fitting that I found myself standing outside on a New York City sidewalk as Ben walked me back to my friend’s dormitory, an awkward silence setting in as we avoided looking at each other. Our two months of rehashing our puppy love had turned sour—things hadn’t worked out. And now he looked at me, the realization that he’d lost his second chance with his first love evident in his light blue eyes, the same eyes I’d peered into day after day in seventh grade science class. The same eyes I’d thought about every night before I drifted off to sleep when I was thirteen years old, planning where and when I would kiss him and trying to imagine exactly how it would be. A sadness settled over both of us as we realized, maybe for the first time, that we were really adults.

He looked up at the sky for a second, then at me. He brushed his lips against my cheek, quickly, with a little hint of that seventh grade awkwardness, and walked off down the quiet street. I haven’t seen him since.

~Madeline Clapps

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