Tuesday, 23 October 2007
My First Kiss
By Fran aka Redondowriter of Sacred Ordinary
In 1953, my classmate Jack brought a gardenia corsage to my house on the night of the first and only high school formal dance I ever went to. My coral colored chiffon dress with a modesty jacket was borrowed, the strapless bodice boned, thank goodness, because my "real" breasts were still in process.
After both of us hemmed and hawed about what to do next, Jack finally handed mom the corsage. She pinned the flowers at my waist. "So," mom said, "have a great time." She straightened my skirts and the crinoline beneath. The day before we had starched it so it could stand alone.
The smell of gardenias filled my nose and lungs. Suddenly I wasn't in my living room, but in a Tahiti jungle filled with gardenias and Jack was a swarthy beach boy protecting me from a boa constrictor. At that moment, gardenias were permanently imprinted in every cell of my body and have remained so all my life.
Jack wore Old Spice after-shave though I don't know or remember if he even shaved yet. His brown crew cut stood up like new mown grass slathered in Brillcream. Along with gardenias, his Old Spice gathered in some hidden olfactory cave in my teenage brain; it has never left, either.
It began to rain when we dashed to his hot pink 1949 Ford, lowered, with dual exhaust systems. A pair of fuzzy white dice hung from the rearview mirror. He opened the door and I stepped inside, just like Cinderella going to the ball. He flipped the radio dial and DJ Huggy Boy introduced Long Tall Sally. Off we purred the two miles from Sunland to Tujunga and the Verdugo Hills High School gym. Thunder rumbled behind the mountains. I smelled electricity as we made a run for it through the rain.
Themed "Christmas in Paradise," droopy, twisted crepe paper hung everywhere and the walls were covered with jungle paintings on butcher paper courtesy of the Activities Committee. Outlining the bandstand were burbling colored bubble lights, casting strange shadows on Ricky and the Rocksters, four flat-topped young men in red suits and green ties.
The band began a smooth rendition of Earth Angel and Jack said, "Let's dance." My heart pounded, so I retreated into my Natalie Wood persona and pretended I was small, dark and enigmatically Russian instead of tall, dishwater blonde and painfully thin.
He held me close and I put my head on his shoulder, my cheek rubbing against his prickly wool jacket. Time passed. The band took a break, and everyone congregated in the grungy-smelling locker rooms, our teacher-chaperones right along with us. It was raining too hard to go outdoors. Jack brought two paper cups of punch and we sipped, our eyes periodically meeting. It was too noisy to really talk. More time passed.
Good Night Irene signaled the 11PM farewell dance. Any teenage evening in my town ended up at Mark Lynn's drive-in, the local hangout. But I had a midnight curfew and at 11:50PM, we drove back to my house on Day Street. Lightning cut the sky and rain tattooed Jack's car roof.
There we sat, like cardboard cutouts, in front of my house which was still on a dirt road back then. Jack pulled out a tin box of Sensen and popped one into his mouth, offering me one, too. Then he pulled me close, our two sets of knees bumping against the gearshift.
After a big gulp, he kissed me and I held my breath. Warm, chapped lips, scent of onions and Sensen; that's how I remember Jack today. I had been waiting for this for 16 years. Was I doing it right? Would he be able to tell I had never kissed a boy before? My heart was pounding and my underarms felt damp.
He put my face between his hands and whispered, "Thanks, Frankie. I had a great time. Wanna go to the movies next week?"
I smiled my Natalie Wood smile, the smile of a kissed woman, and whispered, "Yes, and oh Jack, this was the best night of my life."
We made a wet run for my porch, after he had opened the door on my side of the car like a gentleman. Mom peeked from behind the drapes of the front window and waved and we both waved back.