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I had my first kiss in fifth grade, a mutually initiated event that took place in the bushes of my elementary school. My cohort was Michael W., a very cute eleven year old boy with very clean canvas hi-tops and precisely folded jeans, an honest, freckled face and a blond birthmark in his hair.

It was not a passionate kiss, nor was it a peer pressure kiss. It was, instead, planned at least a month ahead.

Michael W. was a very good friend, not at all your ordinary fifth grade boy. He didn’t swear or run around showing off his muscles. He wasn’t the type to laugh at other kids. He never tried “AMAZING STUNTS” on the playground equipment, and he had a strange sense of humor just like mine.

There were many good things about having an honest boy to talk to, one who liked girl gossip but could still tell you what the boys talked about. We were, in fact, such good friends that when I started my period I talked to him about it. He found out because of the big-mouth-girl.

That year our class was divided in two. The girls were shown a vague film with a cartoon bee narrator. There was a lot of talk about the “intense feelings” and acne that we could look forward to. The film showed a boy and a girl, sitting alone in the park, but then the bee suggested that we girls were better off going in groups whenever boys were involved. There were lots of flowers in the film, as if the director meant to convey, with lilies and orchids, what it meant to become a woman. Each girl was on the edge of her seat, thinking that the secret of the ultimate magic trick was about to be revealed. Mrs. Levy had closed the curtains even though we were on the second floor. She must know from experience that at least one young boy would scale the brick wall and get the secret. Then – well, gosh, anything could happen. When the projector stopped, we looked at each other, thinking, “Is this what we came here for? Was this worth kicking the boys out?” As if to make this time worthwhile Big-mouth-girl twisted her skinny little shoulders towards me and announced around her giant teeth that I had my period already. If not for the embarrassment I could have told them all that the real truth was blood in your pants coupled with the bizarre adult stance that menstruation would make you tremendously attractive to boys.

Soon it was the boys turn to be teased with the secrets of manhood and we passed them on the stairwell. They searched our faces for clues, waiting for us to act differently, seeming surprised that we did not suddenly transform into gorgeous Playboy bunnies. Then Big-mouth-girl was giggling stupidly and I knew I was in trouble. Just like that, it became general knowledge that I’d had my period.

Michael W. was the one boy who didn’t act weird about it. One day we were sitting on “the wooden structure” and he asked me if we could talk about it. He wanted to know what our film was about. We each offered our general understanding, Boy-spy and Girl-spy, sharing confidential information. After he had quizzed me about periods there was some foot swinging and squinting into the sun before he finally said, “I had my thing too.” I was stunned; not knowing boys had a “thing” equivalent to a period.

“What do you mean? What “thing”?”

Nocturnal emissions”, he said, and it sounded like NASA term. I asked him what the heck he was really talking about. “Sometimes when I wake up the sheets are wet, and it’s not pee. It happens with certain dreams.”

“What kind of dreams?”

“I don’t remember.” He tells me, looking at the ground.

I found it funny that puberty is essentially boys and girls trying to keep their messes secret. We sat in silence, until suddenly, abruptly, Michael W. turned to me and said, “We could make a baby.” We both thought nature was pretty strange to make it so eleven year olds could pro-create.

I am not sure who decided first that we should get our first kiss out of the way, but I do remember that was how we thought of it, as something to do so we wouldn’t have to do it later with someone else. We sent notes and funny looks back and forth. We had long phone conversations, during which he would smash crispy rice cereal, then lick the powder from his index finger while we discussed “The Kiss”. This would surely be the most unspontainous event in history.

To execute the maneuver we decided on a “double date”, which was just a bike ride with some friends. We were to meet at the school, but Michael W. and I would get there first. Everything was going as planned, except when we were finally facing each other, neither of us knew what to do. Some time passed and we did not want our friends to arrive and see two feet, facing each other, sticking out of the hedges in front of the principal’s office.

“Just put your arms around me”, I said. I had seen enough movies to know that his hands were supposed to go on my hips, so I found it strange that put his arms around my neck.

“Now what?” I was surprised he asked. One quick peck on the cheek and that was that.

I moved out of town and did not see Michael W. anymore, though I did hear through the grapevine that he was gay. I tried to track him down but couldn’t spell his name. Then, one Fourth of July, I spotted him while sitting in the park with some friends. I ran to him and he recognized me right away. His smile was genuine and we hugged. The first thing he said was, “Remember when we kissed? You said to kiss you like I was kissing my Mom goodnight.” We laughed and laughed, but then a shadow came over his face.

Two guys from his high school were approaching us. Michael W. looked panicked and seemed to duck inside of himself. They started pushing him back and forth, as though I wasn’t even there, as though an entire park full of on lookers did not exist. Michael W. did not fight back. His body was limp as rag doll. I was pushing the boys, screaming, “Leave him alone!” They were shouting, ”Faggot! Faggot! What are you doing talking to a girl?” I screamed out, “Michael, fight back!”

When they were finished Michael W. turned and said to me, “You don’t understand.” Then he ran. I followed him but he was much faster than I was. He crested the hill and was gone. I have not seen him since.

Michael W., wherever you are, I hope you’ve stopped running.

She,
solitary body
blessing passing over...
desire called her softly,
whisper to the wind chimes
and drown in yester-year.
water washing over
solitary body-
she.

alone,
wind breaks
traipsing through eyes
cold and often open
unable to see the clear
awaiting her near closing.
water wash again,
cold now;
clear.

leaving,
cold feet?
doesn't know directions.
sitting lonely for hours
nowhere she wants to go.
she needs more clarity.
stop running now.
he's here;
love.

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