My first kiss with Carla happened at the State Fair. The whole thing looked like something a guy might plan ahead to do, just so he’d have a moving story to tell his kids someday, maybe even his grandkids. “We were there in the dance hall; I took your grandmother by the hand and whisked her onto the dance floor. Kids, she was a vision put to music, and as I pulled her close, I just knew we’d be together the rest of our lives…” Truth is, I didn’t plan a thing. I hoped, perhaps prayed, but the way it happened was more sublime than anything I’ve accomplished by planning.
We were aboard the Ferris wheel, stuck at the top, while it went through its slow-motion paces, off-loading and reloading passengers. The day had been hot, but with the early Fall season, twilight made fast work of the daylight, ushering along a sweet, chill breeze that snuck upon us quickly and found us unprepared for the sudden drop in temperature. This is both the best and worst circumstance in which to kiss a girl for the first time–best, for the shroud of the Ferris wheel car and the pale amber of twilight offer privacy, while the cold encourages closeness–worst, for the inability to escape should the advance be met with awkward displeasure. In our case, it proved to be the best time.
“Gotta love being stuck on top of the Ferris wheel.” she said with a nervous chuckle, and she bent her lower lip the way she always did, and I loved her so much my chest hurt. A swift breeze caught my face, and I felt a cold tear escape my eye and trickle down my cheek, even as she nestled herself against me, crossing her arms about herself in an effort to keep warm. I was embarrassed by the tear, so I reached up with my free hand–the one not now wrapped around her shoulders–and I attempted to wipe it away before she caught sight of it.
“What’s the matter?” I heard her say, and I glanced down to see her inviting expression staring at me. She’d seen the tear, or at least my hasty removal of it, and the intention of her gaze ensured she could see that another was forming in its place.
“Nothing.” I said, swiping my wrist across my eye. “Stupid wind blew something into my face.” I feigned the extraction of some particulate and forced a chuckle.
“Whatever, tough guy.” she said, wiping an icy thumb across my cheek. “I know you. You have a tell!”
“A tell! What do you mean a tell?” I said, and now I felt less nervous, for Carla’s voice had a way of turning light banter into something like a warm, crackling fire.
“You know, it’s like in poker, a tell.” she said. “When someone is bluffing, and the other players know it because he always scratches his nose or something.”
“I didn’t scratch my nose.”
“No, you laughed.” she said. “You always laugh when you’re nervous.”
She was right, of course. I hate it about myself, and I’ve often tried to stop, but there’s just no changing who you are, and I am a nervous laugher. This is when I understood what it was about her–what it was that made me so happy to be with her, and what caused my nervous tension while we were apart. There is no changing who you are, and with Carla, I felt no compulsion to change. Being with her was more than pleasure. It was relief.
I can’t say whether I initiated the kiss or if it was Carla–we argued playfully about it later–I only know in that moment, fractions of seconds were crystaline, sensations amplified–the chilled, roundish tip of her nose against my cheek, the lingering aroma of peppermint hot cocoa on her breath, the delicate give of her lips when she pressed them to mine. The one, two, three caresses of her unmanicured fingertips as her right hand brusehd my cheek.
I don’t know how long we kissed, I suppose merely seconds, but I know the time was not too short, not too long. I have no further memory of the remainder of the night. Carla and I became separated from time–seperated from and transcendending the worry of rules and the expectations of how life ought to be. Separate from the confusing malaise of this clamorous world.