FIRST GIRLFRIEND FIRST KISS
Who was my 1st girlfriend?
The first girl I took notice of in any real sense of "notice" was a brunette named Robbie.
I was in first grade, so I must have been six-years-old.
I had no idea why THIS particular girl caught my neurons and trapped them. Adolescence was a thousand miles away so it couldn't have been a sex attraction. Nope. Not at six.
I made shy boys look aggressive. So, I never spoke to Robbie. She can count herself pretty lucky. My interests at that age were Hopalong Cassidy, Tarzan, rocket ships, archery, knife-throwing, and rubbing kittens on my face.
My first real girlfriend and my first kiss came NOT because of any natural attraction on my part. It was a strong sense of competition between myself and my best friend, Johnny Santa Cruz.
Johnny and I were rivals. We never spoke about it. It was one-ups-manship. Two Alpha-males. Natural as can be.
Johnny went all googly-eyed over Carol Brown, the blonde girl across the street whose face was a natural habitat for freckles.
He was determined to get from her his first kiss.
Carol Brown didn't push any magic buttons inside of me but the idea that Johnny would get the first kiss before me--well, this will NOT stand!
We were 15-years-old.
Johnny was full tilt into adolescent glandular upheaval. This dude was in heat! I, on the other hand, probably had delayed onset of puberty. All those internal churnings didn't really happen for me until I was about 19. Yeah. Really.
Walstroms are late-bloomers and long-lived.
The efforts Johnny was making consisted of complimenting Carol. On what? I dunno, the plenitude of her freckles, I suppose. She seemed to react with moderate interest.
Wherever Johnny went, I went. I was his shadow. (He was a wide-load kind of fellow and already had a substantial shadow.) Consequently, when Froggy went-a-courtin', I was like the "sword and pistol' by his side.
He held her hand.
His voice dropped into a Barry White whisper (years before there was a Barry White.)
I was nauseous.
I listened to him telling me how great she was and I squinted hard without confirmation.
It was only when he made the bold declaration, "When Carol gets back from summer vacation with her family, I'm going to give her...her first kiss."
"You mean, your first kiss, don't you?"
The fact he didn't want to say it was enough for me. I KNEW.
Before Carol left, I sashayed across Parkdale Ave. and walked up to the Brown's house. Carol's mother answered the door.
"Hello, Mrs. Brown. I'm Terry, a friend of Carol's. I was wondering if you'd be kind enough to give her this letter I wrote for her to read after you folks arrive at your destination?"
The nice lady gave me a very Mom-like once over.
I was tall, slim, good-looking, blue-eyed, and very polite.
"What's this all about, if you don't mind my asking?"
I scuffed the toe of my shoe against the door jam and looked down at the ground.
"I have a crush on your daughter, Mrs. Brown. But--I haven't said anything because of my best friend from across the street, Johnny. He has plans to become Carol's boyfriend--I don't want to be a bad friend. I just...well...I want Carol to have a choice as well as time to think it over without pressure."
Carol's mother stood very, very still with her mouth shaped like she was about to whistle. Her brain was ticking away and I could imagine the calculations inside a mother's noggin.
"Sure. I'll give it to her, Jerry."
"Um, it's Terry."
I had written--NOT a letter--but a poem.
I had a knack for writing. It was my strong suit.
I'd made Carol's Mom promise not to give the poem to her daughter until she was settled in when they arrived in Corpus Christi.
That evening, I sat on the front porch of my house and listened to the cicada's astounding symphony of buzzing lyricism in the trees surrounding the yard. Stars punctured the dark leaves with pinpoints of silver light. I was working at psyching myself up for my first kiss only 30 days away!
I was confident!
When you're young, a minute is an hour and an hour is a day. If you talk yourself into being in 'love'--and you are waiting on the object of your obsession--a month is a life sentence!
By the time Carol Brown returned from vacation some transformations had occurred inside both of us--mostly as the result of internal romantic imagination.
She and I had fantasized every possible scenario!
We weren't in love, of course. We were in love with the grand fantasy of being IN LOVE.
Girls mature faster than boys. Especially THIS boy. She was way ahead of me.
Johnny and I sat in front of his house watching for the Brown family's station wagon to appear. THIS was ground zero and D-day. He had no idea what was coming thanks to my Machiavellian machinations. (i.e. treason.)
Sure enough, the car appeared and chugged up into their driveway which was up a slight hill. I made an instant reckoning. I ducked out. Carol and her family would be exhausted after a long, long drive on the hot Texas freeway in August without air-conditioning.
Let Johnny be the casualty of BAD TIMING! His choice--not mine.
It was 1962.
Johnny was going to celebrate Carol's return by having a little backyard party at sunset with lanterns and lemonade and a phonograph playing 45 rpm records.
I had with me only one single to play at exactly the right moment.
It was Roy Orbison.
Earlier, I waited for Johnny to barge on up as the exhausted travelers emerged from their journey. He plunged right in like a puppy at meal time.
Whatever he said to her I don't know, I remained across the street standing in the shade. I saw Carol craning her neck to look and I knew she spotted me. I stepped out into the light with a smile like the unveiling of an elegant sculpture in her honor. I waved, turned, and walked back into Johnny's house.
My idea was to let the Johnny tsunami crash on her shores first and leave all the anticipation and mystery for later.
It was the evening at last.
Music filled the humid night air, drowning out the zing of mosquitoes. Johnny's sisters, friends and a few neighbors were dancing in his backyard. Carol was dancing with my good buddy and I played coy, being quite cordial to everybody without tipping off Carol how I was timing things to the optimum moment.
Johnny wandered into the house at last. I was a duck on the June bug. I appeared by Carol's side magically just as Roy Orbison started his dramatic sonnet to competitive love and angst, RUNNING SCARED.
"I've been wanting to talk to you all day."
Her freckles glistened with moisture. There's nothing like a sweaty Texas girl to start a cowpoke's heart a thumpin'.
"Aw, I didn't want to intrude. After all, Johnny saw you first."
"I read your poem. It was beautiful. I must have read it a hundred times."
"Before you left I went off by myself to a quiet spot and thought about things. I found myself writing my feelings and once it started--well, I couldn't stop. When I'd finished, I knew I had to let you read it. I'm too shy to say anything otherwise."
(Roy Orbison's amazing crescendo was winding upward, like a drumbeat for a Commanche attack on a circled wagon train.)
"I was hoping you'd ask me to dance."
"I couldn't possibly do that."
(Wait for it...wait for it...wait for it...)
"If I had my arms around you I wouldn't be able to stop myself from kissing you."
(Orbison's voice is rising, rising, rising as the orchestra swells to a majestic turn--a cataclysmic reckoning--seconds from the revealing ending.)
_____MY HEART IS BREAKING, WHICH ONE WOULD IT BE?___
"I've never been kissed before. I was kind of saving it for the end of a perfect date."
"Well, what are you doing Saturday? We could go to a movie."
"I'd really like that."
"There's no reason not to rehearse our kiss, just so-- by the time the end of the date comes around--it will be perfect..."
(Orbison knocked it out of the park:)
____YOU TURNED AROUND AND WALKED AWAY WITH ME-e-e-e-e-e___
I leaned in and planted a real Hollywood smacker on Carol Brown's pink lips exactly the way I'd seen Troy Donahue liplock Suzanne Pleshette in 'ROME ADVENTURE.'
I can close my eyes right now. I recorded everything in-the-moment and it is permanently etched on some dusty row of neurons in my brain vault. The night, the music, the smell of Emeraude perfume, Roy Orbison's voice, the mosquitoes, and the feeling of this freckled blonde's heart pounding against my skinny body.
By the time Johnny came back out of the house (where I knew he had his marathon BM each evening) I had strategically maneuvered my troops to the high ground and planted--not the flag--but my lips.
Carol and I shared our 'moment' on the side of the house in the shadows, but we were fooling ourselves if we thought we hadn't been seen.
Somebody ratted us out to Johnny.
He told me later that night.
"I'd already made up my mind I wasn't interested in Carol anymore."
"Oh. Really? Why is that?"
The answer was a long time coming. Come it did.
"The only thing she wanted to talk about was you."
This is when I knew I would be a good writer. A good writer is effective at bringing about FEELINGS inside his readers.
I had known I had to write something which would kindle feelings.
I'm embarrassed to say--I actually remember the first line of the sonnet I had written for Carol in that letter. It sure doesn't sound like anything today as I look at it on the page in black and white. I'll set it down for you anyway.
"All things worthwhile are worth waiting for--
or so the saying goes
But just how hard it is to wait--that few people know
Unless someone who they love has gone from them away
And they've waited hopelessly throughout each endless day"
Try as I might, I can't recall the rest. It filled a whole page.
I just wonder to myself...wherever Carol is...does she still have that tucked away someplace?