Cat Butrick / Essay / November 2018

Missed First Kiss

Written by Cat Butrick

First kiss, first crush, first partner, first time. For many, these first moments are significant scenes in their lives no matter the emotion elicited. All of my firsts electrocuted my skin with magnetic joy, especially my first kiss.

I don’t remember the exact date, but I know it was a day in the summer of 2015. I had the house to myself until five p.m. Rain fell periodically throughout the morning and afternoon, the bruised blue and purple breaking only for a few minutes every hour allowing small rays of sun. Thunder rumbled occasionally, and while I usually feared thunderstorms, I felt at ease. Naturally, like many sneaky fifteen year olds, I invited over my crush at the time: a classmate and close friend, Xander. We spent the day watching movies, cuddling, and even dancing in the rain. Well, I danced; he watched so as to not “get his clothes wet.”

As the impending arrival of my parents drew nearer, it was time for my perfect day to come to a close, and I knew exactly how I wanted it to end: with my very first kiss. The rain had come to a brief pause, and since neither of us could drive, I knew Xander’s departure couldn’t be delayed. Patiently, I waited as he bent over and put on his white high top converse, my heart a hummingbird’s wings. This is it, I thought.

I reached to unlock my front door, my clammy hands barely able to turn the knob. Xander straightened, taking a step towards me.

“Bye, Cat. I’ll see you,” he said, smiling and reached forward to wrap me in a hug. A hug.

I smiled weakly and stepped out onto the porch after him, waving as he walked out the front door, across the yard, and up the street. I don’t frequently believe in fate, but what happened next will forever be my persuader.

It began to rain.

It was an event that wasn’t unexpected due to the day’s weather, yet so coincidental. Xander turned around, met my eyes, lifted his arms in the air, and we both broke into the biggest smiles. He walked back down to my house in search of refuge, laughing the entire way. Soon, he was standing directly in front of me, clothes soaked and rain drops delicately balanced on the strands of his hair.

“Guess I couldn’t leave like that, ” he said. I stepped off the porch into the rain, wrapping my arms around his neck.

“I guess not,” I said with a smirk. And then it happened. In the pouring rain, surrounded by the bright aroma of wet pavement and a low grumble of thunder in the distance, I had my fairy tale first kiss.

Except I didn’t.

While this scene did actually happen, my real first kiss was months prior. It wasn’t anything epic or exciting or even really memorable. My first real kiss was a simple goodbye peck in Xander’s backyard. No rain. No cute rapport. Nothing extraordinary.

I have told the lie so many times I barely remember the truth. I recall that it was cold. Not bone-chilling, but cool enough that I remember seeing my icy breath in front of me as Xander and I walked the short distance from his back door to the side of his house. Our friends had already reached the front and were getting into their parents cars, voices a low murmur. We stopped, reaching out to hug one another as we always did when we said goodbye. As we pulled back, we locked eyes for what felt like forever, but in actuality could not have been more than three seconds. Wanting to get rid of the awkward tension in the air, I leaned forward, placed both hands on the sides of Xander’s face, and kissed him. It was so quick I can’t remember any sensation or significant emotion attached to the kiss besides the single thought of, This isn’t what I imagined.

My whole life I had been fantasizing about this moment. Years of anticipation only to result in me texting my friend Michael, “I didn’t get my perfect first kiss.”

Creating ideal moments in my mind has always been a specialty of mine, as I have loved reading ever since I was a child. I discovered that I could be anyone I wanted and experience anything my heart desired just by turning the page. My infatuation with stories and pretending soon became dangerous, though.

I quickly became engrossed by “perfect” moments, and soon adopted the mindset that if my experiences didn’t mimic those on television or in the movies they were inferior.

The brain works in mysterious ways, and I truly believe that in order to prevent me from falling into a depressive, self-conscious state, my mind enhances certain moments such as my “first” kiss. By placing significant value on that memory, I am able to repress the negative thoughts surrounding my real one, and don’t constantly berate myself for being unable to recreate a scene worthy of an Oscar. It doesn’t help that when I tell the story of my “first” kiss, I tell the version I first told you, often forgetting until I am done that it isn’t the truth. And I don’t feel guilty. Each repetition of the story gets me high on the drug of fantasy. If I can convince others of my perfect moment, it’ll become true.

Now, you may think that since I have acknowledged my problem that I am on the way to recovery and currently working on ways to develop “normal” standards. However, this isn’t true. I am still a living, breathing, abstraction romantic who continues to create unbelievable scenarios in my head that will never come to fruition. It is the positive response I receive when I tell my “first” kiss story and also moments such as those of my recent fall break that continue to entice me.

My crush James had spent the past seven months in Mississippi and Texas for the Air National Guard, and was returning two days before our fall break started. How convenient, the romantic director in my head mused. Scenes began to form. After countless hours of internal debate on the best way to surprise him, I decided to go with the classic ‘cover his eyes from behind and guess who.’

Shaking from both nerves and excitement, I arrived at his house and crept into the backyard where his dad told me he was. Please don’t turn around. Please don’t turn around, I thought as I silently approached him. Standing directly behind him, I gently placed my hands over his eyes, choosing not to give my identity away by saying anything.

“Who is this?” James asked curiously. I still stayed quiet, impatiently waiting as he slowly turned around. “What?!” he yelled. “What are you doing home?” James quickly reached forward, lifting me off the ground in a tight hug.

It was perfect, and I couldn’t have been happier. We spent the rest of the night and the weekend by each other’s sides: going apple picking, going out to eat, and watching cheesy rom coms. I finally had my Oscar moment…at least that’s the version I tell.

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