*tap tap* Is this thing on?…

Last night I attended and read at what’s officially my first ever public open mic night reading. I’ve read a handful of pieces before in smaller, intimate groups at different writing conferences I’ve attended. Always surrounded by people that I know in some facet, even if only for a few moments, but always enough so that I know they’re going to be… nice? Last night though, was different… I arrived early in hopes of finding like-minded strangers interested in conversation… instead I sat alone, gripping my few printed pages and watching the podium and microphone in front of me as it grew a tail, fangs, horns, and leering yellow eyes… A group of strangers began arriving, gathering in the lower level of a local bookstore, all of them chattering eagerly with each other, making the monster before me grow even larger, and the knots in my stomach tighter, as I realized these people all knew one another. They knew each others style, voice, thoughts, opinions, and humor – whereas I, a tattooed trollope, had wandered aimlessly, naively into their lair, stupidly thinking that I might fit in.

Just as I was reacquainting myself with the nearest exit route I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to find a familiar face. The face of a friend from high school, 12 years ago, recently reacquainted, there to show her support for me. *sigh* You know who you are, and you both rescued me from a night of awkwardness suffered alone, and at the same time cemented the fact that I could not escape. I now had no choice but to follow through on my commitment to bare my still naked and quivering soul to these judgemental strangers.

I was further down the list, allowing me the opportunity to fully commit to my nervousness, and to lose myself in utter confusion at what appeared to be a night devoted fully to poetry written quite eloquently in Klingon, while I waited for my name to be called. Eventually it was, and as is my habit I made excuses for the piece of writing I was going to share before even daring to make eye contact with any of the rabid beasts in the crowd. No doubt at the point, already having noticed that I am a stranger, and not one of them. I read my piece, a short story, my first ever attempt at fiction; a piece that I recently shared at a small writers conference I attended to good response on the validity and thoroughness of my “voice.” Last night however, the room was silent, and I lost my place on a few occasions simply because I wasn’t sure that I was actually reading aloud to the room, or if I might be awkwardly standing there, in front of the crowd, making no sound at all – simply rereading the words to myself in my own inner monologue. When I finished there was a quiet whisper of golf clapping as I zeroed in on my destination, my empty chair 3 rows from the back of the room.

Luckily, these strangers must be used to having a newbie such as myself mistakenly wander in off the street on occasion, because they were careful to refrain from eye contact, or any other form of communication that would require us to speak. And before I knew it, another poet had taken the stage, sharing a rhyme about topics I still have yet to realize. And then another, this one speaking of anger, loss, rage, and abandonment. A mere moment passed, and just like that my voice had been forgotten. With that, the evening was over, and with my single friendly companion in tow, we hastily made our way to the exit. Bursting into nearly maniacal laughter the moment we made it back out, safely, into  the world we knew.

It’s in his kiss… Or is it?

I remember being young, much younger than I am now, and getting absolutely giddy at the thought of receiving my first real kiss. Well, that first kiss came and went, without so much as a firework, or butterfly in sight. Honestly, it was quite a memorable experience, but for all of the wrong reasons. The setting, not a first date, or movie-theater with a boy I’d been passing notes to (circle yes or no), or crushing on from class. But instead, it was at a friends 11th birthday party, yea I know, I started my “research” early.

It was the first, of many, real boy-girl parties I would attend. “Real” meaning that we had finally outgrown running naked through sprinklers together on the neighbors lawn with unabashed enjoyment, overcome our immature fear of invisible yet life threatening cooties, and were starting to realize there was something strangely intriguing, unknown, and tempting about the opposite sex. A few of my friends had older siblings, and had overheard (read: eavesdropped on) stories about what games & frivolities were expected at parties like these, now that we were so much more mature, pin the tale on the donkey and freeze tag just wouldn’t cut it.

After a few minutes of whining and prodding from the birthday girl, her parents decided we weren’t in any immediate danger, and relocated themselves to the kitchen upstairs, no doubt to refill their party cups with spiked punch. As soon as the door closed behind them, we found ourselves being drawn by some yet undiscovered gravitational force into a misshapen circle on the well worn shag carpeted floor, in the dimmest corner of their quasi-finished daylight basement; all eyes nervously watching the partially filled 2 liter bottle of Dr. Pepper laying precariously in our midst. The walls had been decorated with magazine posters of our favorite boy bands (NKOTB and Hansen *squeal*) and television stars (Devin Sawa, Jared Leto, and Leonardo DiCaprio *swoon*), the ceiling above dripped with colorful streamers, & limp oxygen filled balloons, and our pulses raced with prepubescent hormonal excitement.

Flash forward 5 minutes and don’t blink or you’ll miss my first kiss, with a red headed, freckle faced, annoyingly nerdy boy from school. By todays standards it would have been called a peck, or perhaps just an accidental brushing of his lower lip over my chin, and top lip across my teeth – or rather, my braces. I had been so excited about graduating from the group of “never been kissed losers” to the club of “chicks that’ve been kissed” that while I smiled awkwardly over my recently tightened brackets, he leaned in, and, we missed. Only now, looking back, do I realize what a gigantic moment of embarrassment I sidestepped. My newly blooming love life would have gone up in a poof of smoke right then and there if he had sliced his lip open, or even worse, if he’d been an orthodontia ridden preteen like myself, and our brackets had locked?!?!!? I could be sitting in a convent right now, instead of on a well-worn leather sofa in a local coffee shop. Renewing my vows of chastity and modesty instead of allowing my gaze to rest on the tender lips of the well-dressed civil servant next to me sipping his espresso.

Now, as I prepare to bid adieu to my 20’s, and march steadily, head held high, into my 30’s, I realize that so many of my past relationship attempts have begun with a kiss, much like my first, where for whatever reason, whether it be my smile, his anxiousness, or simply bad timing, we’ve missed. I can honestly say that I have yet to experience a firework lighting, goose-dot creating, toe curling first kiss, and anxiously look forward to the day it happens. Until then though, I’m biding my time, enjoying my solo adventures, and smooching a frog every now and then. I maintain the hope, and faith, that someday, that frog just might be the oddly nerdy prince I’ve been waiting for.

So, there you have it, the embarrassing story of my first kiss that really wasn’t. Your turn now – tell me, what do you remember about your first kiss? Was it a complete disaster, or are you one of the few blessed souls whose first kiss was with their soul mate?