The closet was tight and musty and smelled like tennis balls. Her tongue slipped in and around my mouth, reminding me of last summer when I ate a worm on a dare during baseball practice. I opened my eyes and saw how close hers were, forced shut as if she had done this before. I looked up and away, like when a dentist gets too close to your face and the little spout of saliva comes shooting out. She began to circle her tongue around mine, but ended up too radial, devouring my gums and teeth. This was not the way the movies did it. I heard the bantering behind the door getting louder as we approached the seven-minute mark. All I could think of was the burp that started as a gas pocket in the bottom of my stomach but had made its way to my throat. The crowd outside the closet started counting down: “Ten, nine…” I could taste the cheap vodka and orange Gatorade, the stale chips and pineapple salsa. “Six, five, four…” If this is kissing, I’d rather eat a worm. “Two, one…” I couldn’t hold it. She exited my mouth and everything came roaring out of me like some cataclysmic devil, all over Melissa Maher’s virgin-white blouse. She punched me square in the nose, blood filling my mouth, changing the taste of the kiss forever.
Melissa didn’t speak to me again until high school. By that time she had a boyfriend who probably taught her how to kiss and could hold his liquor better, who could pick her up with his semi-circular biceps and spin her around the quad. I looked around the campus at couples sprawled out with legs around each other like hot pretzels. What was once kids in dark closets too embarrassed to explore each other’s bodies was now full displays of sexual fluidity on long, flat lawns made for stretching ourselves out into sensual adulthood.
I worked at the pharmacy and she needed cigarettes; she told me to be cool and don’t make it a thing and just get her the cigs; that I owed her that much for humiliating her in middle school. I wanted to tell her I couldn’t; that my dad takes inventory every night and it would be my ass, but she did this thing with her hair and I just nodded and asked what kind. Her boyfriend gave me a look that was a perfectly crafted mix of you’re cool if you do this and what a fucking loser. I wanted to tell him she was a bad kisser, that for seven minutes she gave me a dental check-up with the tip of her tongue, but then I saw them kiss with just their lips and it was even better than film—realer, rawer. I felt a gas bubble form in the bottom of my stomach.
I went on break and met her in the parking lot in back of the pharmacy. She offered me a Parliament Light and I told her my dad would smell it on me, but soon enough I was taking a draw from hers. She was wearing a lipstick the color of dried blood which made a lip silhouette around the filter. As I inhaled, I looked down at the cigarette, where my wet, weak lips met her lipstick stain. I coughed; she stepped back, threw her arms up, and said don’t shoot. We laughed. She stuck her tongue out at me and offered me a piece of gum to hide the smell before I headed back inside.
I stood in the doorway and counted down from ten as I watched her walk away. I slowly closed the door, leaving me on one side of it and Melissa Maher on the other.
"She exited my mouth and everything came roaring out of me like some cataclysmic devil, all over Melissa Maher’s virgin-white blouse. She punched me square in the nose, blood filling my mouth, changing the taste of the kiss forever."