My first kiss was Rebecca Wheeler. We were in the 7th grade. I think… it must have been a Tuesday because the whole thing started on a Thursday, I spent the whole weekend thinking about it, and opened my big fat mouth on that next Monday.
So on Thursday Reid McKenzie tells me that he heard Rebecca and this other girl Samantha Rivers talking about me. He said he wasn’t really close enough to hear everything, but he definitely thought he heard Rebecca say that she thought I was cute. “How did it come up?” I asked. Reid didn’t know. He just said he was walking past them in the hallway and since his locker was two away from Sam’s, he overheard part of their conversation.
I gotta be honest. I don’t think I spent a single minute thinking about Rebecca Wheeler before then. It was basically Inception, Reid’s revelation planted this thought that maybe a girl found me moderately attractive or something. I can’t even remember what I thought about her before that Thursday. She was alright, I guess. Not ugly, but not knock-out gorgeous. She had a look, I guess. Girl-next-door-ish in a 7th-grade-kind-of-way. But yeah, that was late on Thursday, so I never actually saw Rebecca until Friday. I was even surprised to find out she was in my geography class. It was the only class we had together. I had to sit in the front because my eyesight sucked. She was in the back of the class.
Something like half-way through that geography class, I got up to sharpen my pencil. The sharpener was at the back of the class, directly behind Rebecca’s desk. I stuck the pencil into the sharpener and kind of leaned toward her. Her hair smelled good. It was light brown, straight, and fell to the middle of her back. That was pretty much it, I mean she was facing the other way so I concocted some real black-ops shit. I started walking back to my desk and “accidentally” dropped my pencil – tip first – on the ground. It didn’t shatter or anything like I hoped it would. I don’t know what I thought was going to happen. Was it going to explode into fifteen pieces? Pffft. Anyway, the pencil tip doesn’t shatter, but it dulled a little. I bent down to pick it up while facing Rebecca. I tried to stare at her for as long as I could without making it super-obvious. She had thick, but not bushy eyebrows, some light freckles and light brown eyes. There was a lot of brown. She might have been wearing brown, too.
I think I made a sound to emphasize the fact that I had to sharpen my pencil again, like a grunt of groan of frustration. Rebecca smiled at me. Holy shit, that was all it took. I could feel this rush of heat up in my face. I got up and returned to the sharpener. I didn’t even look at her back. I was trying to calm myself down, taking deep breaths without making a sound. I guess that was my first brush with a tidal wave of hormones. It only got worse as I got into high school and college, but at least then I kind of knew what to do with it.
At lunch later that day, Reid comes up to me and says that he heard Rebecca tell Samantha that I smiled at her. “She smiled at me!” I said. Reid asked if I smiled back. “No!” I said. But then I thought, Did I? I didn’t even eat lunch. I spent the rest of the period playing back the whole ordeal mentally. I retraced my steps. I saw the pencil hit the ground, so I knew I didn’t see her until I was bent down. That’s when she smiled. Did I smile back, though? Did I do it and not mean to do it? Was it something like blinking or breathing and my body just reacted to some kind of weird situation I wasn’t expecting. The worst part is, I even made all these weird half-smile faces in the bathroom mirror later in the day. I was trying to see if I could have made some kind of face that could be interpreted as a smile. It was a low point of my intermediate school experience. Thank God no one walked in on me. That would have been a pretty terrible thing to have to explain.
After last period, I was standing with Reid and this other guy, Shane Fauria, Faurio, something like that – I don’t remember, he didn’t go to the same high school we did – we were sitting on the steps of B Building, those huge, sprawling, low steps that fan out like a clam shell or something like. I want to say we were talking about how none of our parents were going to order Wrestlemania that Sunday. I think there was one kid who said he was going to get it, but he lied about everything, so no one believed him, but he did get Royal Rumble, so we didn’t really know what to believe. How the hell do I remember this stuff? But anyway, we’re just sitting there on those low steps and I guess Rebecca, Samantha, and these two other girls came through the doors behind us because I never saw them coming. They walk past us, get to the edge of the stairs, then they just stop and turn on the spot. “BYE, TROY!” Rebecca says. All four of them giggle, then half-sprint to the bus stop at the front of the school. Man, it was over. Reid and Shane started busting on me, saying “Bye Troy!” in the highest pitch they can manage. I felt the flush of heat in my face again. I think I tried to tough it out, maybe I said something like “You guys are just jealous,” you know, just totally overly macho and just as obviously insecure.
I went home and spent the next two days thinking about nothing but Rebecca Wheeler. I even forgot about Wrestlemania until late Sunday night.
By the time I got to school Monday morning, I was a wreck. I remember thinking at the time that I had never felt that way in my entire life. Of course, now I miss that kind of anxiety and tension, you know. My life now is a routine of the same stuff over and over. You just want to mix it up once in a while, you know? It’s hilarious to look back on this ordeal because it becomes this super-huge thing that takes over your whole life. But yeah, before homeroom, I was walking toward Rebecca and Samantha and two other girls – not the same ones from Friday – I made eye contact with Rebecca and she smiled and Samantha just blurts out “Hi, Troy…” really stretching out both syllables. I gave them that head nod where your head goes upward instead of down. I kept walking. “Rebecca wants to talk to you!” Samantha said. I didn’t know what to do. I just kept walking. I pretended not to hear it.
I had math with Reid first that day. Somehow the story was that I “snobbed” Rebecca in the hallway that morning. It was only 25 minutes since it happened. This is pre-cell phones, pre-internet, pre-everything. How the hell did news travel so quickly? I tried to play it off. “I said ‘hello,'” I said. I didn’t. He said that he heard that Rebecca said she wanted to talk to me and just ignored her. Obviously, he got it wrong, but pointing that out would have meant that I heard Samantha say it. “Really? I didn’t even hear her say anything,” I said. My heart was racing. Was she mad or something? I gave her the nod!
Finally, geography rolls around after lunch. I walked through the back door so I’d have to walk past Rebecca’s desk. “Hey, Rebecca,” I said. She looked up, then quickly turned away. I thought my chest was going to cave in. Oh my God, I felt so horrible. I walked to my desk in the front of the class and just sat there for the entire period. Mr. Goodwin was talking and I could hear it, but I don’t remember a single thing he said. My mind was a runaway train on fire. Why was she so pissed? How long was this going to last? I’ve never even really talked to this girl! What is going on? When the bell rang, I turned in my seat. I made it just in time to see Rebecca rip her books off her desk and storm out of the classroom. Why the hell did I feel so miserable? I still don’t know. She wasn’t even my girlfriend or anything.
At the end of the day, Reid, me, and a couple of other guys were hanging out on the steps, and Samantha – all by herself – walks up to us and has this serious face on. She tells me that I really hurt Rebecca’s feelings. The other guys start with the ooohing and shit like that. It was so stupid. “What did I do?” I said. Samantha started going on about how she told me Rebecca wanted to talk to me this morning and how I “totally snobbed” her. “I even hear you,” I said. Samantha seemed surprised. She took a step closer. She said she was going to tell Rebecca that I didn’t hear her, that I didn’t snob her on purpose. “Yeah,” I said. “I mean, I didn’t mean anything or whatever, I really didn’t hear you say anything.” At 13, the coolest thing you can do is not give a shit. She asked me if I liked Rebecca. I could feel the rush of heat coming. I straight-up choked. “Well, I think she’s cute,” I said. Backpedal! “But I don’t really know her or anything or like – ever really talked to her,” I said. A smile broke out on Samantha’s face. “So you’ll talk to her tomorrow before homeroom?” Samantha asked. I could feel my friends’ eyes on me. “Yeah, sure,” I said, as coolly as possible. Samantha darted away. There was some shouting, some congratulating, some back-patting, some “yeah, baby!”s. I remember my mouth was super-dry and my hands were cold. I tried to man-up in front of my friends, but from the second I got into my mom’s car, I was terrified. My mom even asked me if I felt sick.
I couldn’t sleep Monday night. I think I eventually got 4 hours before I had to get up for school. I got to school on Tuesday morning and spotted Rebecca and Samantha in the hallway again, same place. Samantha called and waved me over. She said Rebecca wanted to talk to me. I hooked my thumbs into the straps of my backpack. I walked over, just trying not to look like I was going to melt into a puddle of goop. Rebecca took a step forward and face me. Her friends were standing behind her, smiling. The smiles were so big.
Rebecca’s face grew bright red. She was only a couple of feet away. I could smell her hair.
“I’m sorry I was mad at you yesterday,” she said.
“Nah, it’s cool,” I said.
“I didn’t know you didn’t hear Sam,” she said.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said.
“So, um, I think you’re really cute,” she said.
“Oh,” I said. I think I might have thanked her. I did. I thanked her. But then I quickly saved face by saying I thought she was cute, too. I remember I was all What the hell? How is she saying this? It was emasculating before I even knew what that word meant. I would never had had the balls to just go up to a girl and start talking, let alone tell her that I thought she was pretty or whatever.
“So, I just-” she started to say, but then one of her friends shoved her into me. Rebecca’s head snapped back, then forward. People say this shit happens in slow-motion, but not this. I was flat-footed, so I took one step back on impact. My hands came up, too, to block her, I guess, but my arms ended up getting awkwardly stuck on her hips. Also, our lips pressed against each others’. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s no way that would ever qualify as a real kiss, but we didn’t really break apart immediately. The kiss just kind of hovered there – not long – just it was nice, I guess. Like we both decided to let it linger.
It was a kind of un-reality that happened so fast, so long ago, I sometimes wonder if I’ve revised parts of it in my head or even maybe made entire parts of it up. The real world came slamming back in the form squeals and whooping from Rebecca’s friends.
And that was my first kiss.
We were boyfriend/girlfriend for a while after that, as much as 13-year olds can be, I guess. Rebecca and I went to a school dance together. We slow-danced – the kind where you just stand there, the girls arms around your neck, your hands on her hips, and you both move side-to-side. I had my thumbs hooked in the belt loops of her jeans, my fingers fell on the top of her butt cheeks. When older guys used to talk about making out with girls, fooling around with girls, they made it sound so easy. They never talked about the football-sized butterflies in your stomach, the sweat, the longing.
I don’t know what happened to Rebecca Wheeler. I spent the next 4 months writing her name on my binder, my notebooks, and the palm of my hand. Then she went to a private school for 8th grade. We promised to stay in touch, but it was over before the end of summer. We just never saw each other. We never saw each other again.
I still think about her sometimes, like now, when we’re just shooting the shit and talking about old times. Where is she now? What does she look like? Is she married? Does she have any kids? I don’t think I’d recognize her if she was standing in front of me. I can’t even remember what I did this weekend, but I remember all this. It doesn’t mean anything, but it can’t mean nothing, right? I know there’s no correlation between Rebecca Wheeler, any of the girls I dated, and the woman I eventually married, but it feels like there is, you know? Like she was the start of an epic run of trial and error – mostly error – that was finally supposed to end when I got married. I mean it didn’t, but still. I guess that’s the point. Nobody ever imagines their first kiss happening like that. It’s supposed to be epic or hyper-romantic or something like that, not a shove-and-a-kiss. We were teased mercilessly for the next two weeks. So when is the first official kiss happening? When we would kiss: Was that a kiss? I don’t know if that meets the time requirement for a standard kiss. It was so, so lame. A lot of times, though, it really is the best of stuff in life.