Three Melons and a Peach: A Chronology of a Kiss
Writer’s comment: What am I, crazy? I’ve allowed three of the most embarrassing moments in my life to be published! The only saving grace in my public confessions is that this essay has already become an invitation for others to tell of their own first kisses. Some of those first kisses have more humiliation behind them than my own. But no matter how a person’s first kiss came off, whether it was a melon or a peach, it makes for an interesting story. This kissing story came to fruition when I passed from those tart and slimy melons to that single, sweet peach. Let no one tell you that men, or the kisses they impart, cannot be compared to fruit!
A much deserved thanks to Dr. Steinke, whose passion for writing and teaching inspired a love of writing within me that had been buried since high school. This love of writing coupled with a girlish romantic idealism brought out of me an essay which, I fear, will forever plague me like that skittish, awkward boy who I always got stuck dancing with. Go ahead, snicker at my defeats. Let loose a guffaw or two at my embarrassment! But remember back to your own first kiss, that slippery collision of youth and lips. Then smile inwardly at your treasured peach.
Instructor’s comment: The advanced composition course Kim took from me, as with all my other writing courses at Davis, was an ongoing process of establishing and developing a responsible student-centered environment for each writer using multiple drafts of essays, extensive journal writing (five out every seven days), texts, conferencing, some strategic lectures, and peer groups, intensively. We made explicit along the way our several goals—that writers could experience the concept of re-drafting, could become genuine audiences, could develop fluency skills, and could form skills and correctness on self-generated topics across a range of assignments.
Important breakthroughs occurred for me in my teaching seven quarters ago at Davis when I taught myself ways to train peer groups before they began—via transcripts of actual peer groups from Boston University, read aloud by students and then studied by the class while this “live acting” was in progress. Peer group interaction became exciting to participate in and study. Kim’s group, with Mary Ann, Matthew, and Brian, turned into, as did so many others, a powerful audience in each of the stages of fluency >>> form >>> correctness. Kim’s group, providing both verbal and written responses, wanted more elaboration on her pre-kiss romantic notions in the drafts of this Recollection/Reflection essay; wanted more detail on one of those first three kissing incidents; pointed out that the transitional conversations with Amy needed to be made less abrupt, made longer, smoother. In three drafts Kim worked on various effects to give this essay both immediate and projected interest. It’s a peach! We’re both pleased it now has a still wider audience.
—James Steinke, English Department
“Kissing a watermelon? No, I’ve never been THAT desperate.”
My sister Amy went on to tell me about her friend who dared to do such a feat.
“Did it help?” I asked.
“We don’t know! She hasn’t kissed a real guy yet!”
Amy and I burst into a fit of giggles, and I realized how being in the company of my younger sister regressed me to her awkward, girlish high school age. I had forgotten, until this bedside 2:00 a.m. conversation, how I used to be obsessed with popularity and sports cars, and how I daydreamed of my first kiss. But Amy had much more “experience” than I did at her age. She and her friends had passed their adolescent initiation of first kisses—at least the kind on the lips.
“In the back of the CHURCH van? With everyone watching? Where did he kiss you?”
“On the LIPS!” she squealed.
Amy’s excitement and anxiety about kissing ignited a rush of memories. How I used to romanticize about first kissing someone! I thought that I would be in a long flowing gown, and the handsome young man would bring me flowers, and ask to court me. Our kiss would be done on the porch, under an encouraging moon and a harmony of stars. Or maybe I would be in a MacDonalds, and the most good-looking guy I’d ever seen would come to my table, buy me a hot fudge sundae, and he give me a kiss when he walked me to my car.
Ah, the kiss was exciting to think about as well. I had no idea what it would be like, but I knew it would feel wonderful. This quick pucker and follow-through would be my initiation into womanhood, somehow setting me apart from other girls who could barely fill a bra or who, as rumors went, practiced kissing by mutilating fruit. A rite of passage, a first romance, yes. But my girlish head had set itself upon one quest: I would be truly in love with the young man I first kissed, and our kiss would be written down for all time as the apex of young romance.
In reality, my first kiss, of course, was an entirely different scenario. My face cringed remembering the embarrassment of that first event. To this day, my first kiss is something I avoid talking about; but as Amy egged me on, I slowly released the story for her earnest ears.
I was in the enthusiastic masses of a college football game, being tugged around by the arm of my obnoxious friend Jennifer. She was a sophomore with a mission: to find and meet a cute guy before the end of the game. It was already the third quarter, and she looked frantically up and down the stadium steps for an unsuspecting victim. As her arm jerked me in her direction, I whimpered. It was raining, I was soaked, my shoes kept slipping off my feet, and I could care less about meeting some greasy guy.
Jennifer stopped short, and I slid into her. Her quick eye had spotted two drinking, smoking college men. I looked at her in fright—could she be serious? She eyed the men, then looked at the game sign: five minutes to go in the third quarter. She quickly glanced back at the guys, then at me. I knew there was no escape.
We sat down two rows in front of them. Jennifer turned around and gave them her practiced smile and laugh. For the next half hour she forced me to turn and smile periodically, and to laugh at any drunken jokes they made. It wasn’t long before the guys staggered down the two rows of bleachers toward us. Jennifer got her just deserts: the short fat one sat next to her, and the tall thin one sat next to me. The one with Jennifer was the talker, and the fast mover. Before I knew it she was sitting on his lap, flirtatiously asking him to keep his hands off her. Fortunately, the guy I sat next to fixated himself on the game, and didn’t say a word. What’s more, when the rain began really coming down, he offered to put his jacket over my head.
Near the end of the game, I suggested that Jen and I go find her parents. I was scared that as people began to leave the stadium, someone might pass by who knew me, and I wanted to flee the scene of the crime. By this time, Jennifer was rather forcefully telling her drunkard to keep his hands off her body, so she was glad to call off the adventure. We stood up to go, and I turned to say a polite “thank you” to the guy next to me. I wanted to thank him for not being an idiot, for not talking, for not throwing up on me, and for not harassing me as his friend had done to Jennifer. But before a “thank you” rolled off my lips, his lips were on mine. More than that, there was a fleshy thing in my mouth that didn’t belong to me, and I was disgusted. I heard Jennifer scream, ”Way to go, Kim!”
I broke away and ran up the stairs and out of sight. For the rest of the day I kept spitting, trying to undo what had been done. Jennifer, on the other hand, was proud of me—why hadn’t I told her, she insisted, that I knew how to french kiss?
Amy was in shock.
“You mean you didn’t know him?”
“Of course not. I wouldn’t know any college drunk when I was a sophomore in high school!”
“And you never saw him again?”
“Heck no, thank God! But it’s not as if he was sober enough to remember the incident.”
I had wished many times that I was unable to remember that dreadful football game, and the nasty surprises it had in store. Spitting didn’t make me feel any better, so I resolved that my SECOND kiss, whenever it may be, would restore to my body and mind that innocence that had been violated on those slick, wet bleacher steps. Yes, my second kiss would rest upon the lips of my true love.
“Did you ever kiss Isaac?” Amy asked tentatively.
Ugh, Isaac. I didn’t want to admit to her that I did kiss him, but I only kissed him once—and refused any of his advances after that. He had taken me out to the opera that night. It was my first real date, and so my mom and I had gone shopping the night before to buy me a nice dress. I was dolled up with makeup, heels, and pearls. I felt like a woman.
“Can I kiss you goodnight?”
I thought it was such a sweet question. Of course, I didn’t want to kiss him, but just the fact that he asked me made me want to give him a quick peck on the cheek. I was only fifteen, and I didn’t like him. Wasn’t my second kiss to be with someone I really liked? The intensity of the moment lessened my defenses. My mind analyzed the situation: did he deserve to kiss me? He had taken me to an opera—it was probably a lot of money for our good seats, and he did offer to take me out afterward. He had been a gentleman, and I didn’t mind holding his hand on our way to the car. But still, Issac somehow gave me the creeps. Is it right to kiss someone who gives you the willies? I decided to let him kiss me, although he better not expect much. I quickly worked out a Plan B strategy in case something went wrong: if he pressured me, I would scream and run into the house, to my parents’ bedroom, where I would wake my stepfather, grab his shotgun . . . and Isaac would be dead before he could reach his Toyota. Taking a deep breath, and glancing around to see if anyone was watching, I said, “Sure, Isaac. Thanks for asking.”
Whew, it was just a kiss on the lips. But he sure stayed there for a while. I couldn’t wait to get on the other side of our door, alone. His lips trembled—was this a technique to impress me? How did he DO that, anyway?
“Goodnight, Isaac, and thank you.” He practically skipped back to his car. At least one of us had enjoyed that. I closed the door to the night, to Isaac, to the kiss, and was relieved to be safe on the inside again.
“I can’t believe that you kissed him,” Amy said with disgust.
“Don’t worry, you’ll probably kiss several that you don’t want to.”
“Well, things did get better with Jeff.”
“Oh yeah? Tell me what your first kiss was like with him. Did he ask if he could kiss you? I think that’s so romantic—unless it’s Isaac who asks you,” she said. “And you know what else I think is great? When a guy holds your face in his hands like they do in the soaps.”
“That part comes in later in my story,” I said. “Let me tell you about Jeffrey.”
I was finally “in like” and he liked me back! Jeff and I were lying on the grass. At sixteen, my parents let me take walks with my first boyfriend at night. So Jeff and I had walked to a nearby college, and had planted ourselves on the lawn underneath a clear summer sky. He was telling me some story, and I wasn’t listening to him at all, because I was working out the logistics of how I was going to kiss him.
We were lying down with our faces toward the moon, the tops of our heads touching one another. This presented a problem for me, because I had to turn on my stomach and lean over his head, which was upside down to mine, in order to get to his lips. I wanted to take him by surprise, so I had to be quiet and quick, with good aim in the darkness. I turned the situation over in my mind, and calculated timing and positioning as he droned on with his story.
I had been waiting a month to kiss him. We had been very formal about going out with one another. For both of us, this was our first romance—we wanted to make sure we did everything right, without any regrets. Because of this, our first kiss ought to be perfect, and I felt it was my responsibility to make sure it was something to be remembered. If this kiss was good enough, I could forget the first two flops, and I would recall this kiss with Jeff as being my first. My honor and innocence would finally be restored, because this kiss would be with someone I at least liked (though I wouldn’t call it love).
I quietly turned myself onto my stomach, and raised my body up with my arms. Leaning over his face, I quickly took aim, and closed my eyes. I had reached a zenith of anxiety—the month of waiting had seemed a drop in time compared to the eternity of these precious seconds. At once, the weight of my body as well as my pride weakened the strength of my arms, and I gave way into a dive for my target. MISSED! I caught the edge of his chin. We were breathless with shock, each surprised differently. When breath returned to me, I stuttered. Before I could say a word, Jeff offered, ”Don’t worry, you’ll get better.” I shrunk to the size of a blade of grass, and felt that I had been forever cursed with this kissing thing.
Amy laughed. “So did you ever get it right?”
“Figure it out yourself. We went out for eight months!”
“I’m glad my first kisses didn’t go as awful as yours. Did it get better?”
“The fourth time is always a charm! I suppose you want to hear about when WADE kissed me?”
Amy knew Wade the best, because even three years after our first kiss (the kiss that almost wasn’t) he and I still delighted in each other. For Amy, getting any information about Wade and me was food for gossip with her friends, and I was delighted to oblige.
He had been trying to kiss me all night. We had gone out to the university for an evening walk, and it was the most romantic evening. We would walk until we came to a romantic moonlit area—a patio, a swingset, a balcony. At each stop he would put his arm around me and lean his head into mine. I was terrified with excitement. I wasn’t in a long gown, nor did he bring me flowers, but the romance of a porch-style courtship was definitely there. Petrified with fear, I hoped he would relieve the tension by asking if he could kiss me. Up on the balcony, just before we drove back to his house, he tried and tried again to get that quick encouraging kiss, but I could not give in. And oh, how I wanted to! I tried several times to keep myself from retreating, to press into him, to show him with a simple touch of lips that all of me was YES to his jokes, his laughter, his questions, his closeness. But each time I ducked, or twisted, or altogether moved away from his embrace. Then I gave him an awkward hug instead, and I knew that I had probably ruined the whole thing.
He didn’t say a word in the car. He didn’t touch me, didn’t look at me, and I felt sick inside. I had wanted to kiss him! Why couldn’t I do it? Would I get the chance to again? He must think that I am a dope! Is seventeen too young to become a secluded nun?
We arrived at his house, where I had left my mom’s car. I sighed, knowing the evening was over. The most romantic night of my life and I had ruined it by not kissing someone I really wanted to kiss. Walking him to his door, I tried to send him telepathic messages: Just try to kiss me once more! I won’t disappoint you! Give me one more chance! He must have felt defeated, and he didn’t try to kiss me. Instead he said, “Goodnight. See you in school.”
I was crushed. I turned back toward my car on the verge of tears. With each step I sank deeper into frustration. I could have kissed him a thousand times tonight! I was too scared to kiss him even once. If only I had one more chance! Just one!
Opening the door to the car, I turned to cast a sorrowful look at the empty doorway to Wade’s house. Only the doorway wasn’t empty: Wade was standing there, watching me leave. One last chance . . . .
Slamming the door to the car, I bolted toward the porch and stopped short at the bottom of the steps leading to his door. I looked up, my eyes pleading, and said, “I umm, hope you don’t think this is forward, but ahh . . . could I kiss you goodnight?”
Wade smiled. I had done the right thing (at last)! He came down one step toward me, and reached out his hands to pull me up one step. Then he put his hands on my face and drew me close to him. He looked at me, and I saw only the blueness of his eyes. He kissed me. The earth moved, the moon did flips, and the grass sang in four-part harmony. Every ounce of my body trembled, and I felt dizzy. A single thought was typed into my head over and over again: “If he keeps kissing me like this, I’ll be with him for a long, long time.” My peach at last!
Amy squealed, “How romantic! But I can’t imagine YOU asking HIM for a goodnight kiss! I don’t think I could ever do that!”
“You have yet to learn, my dear sister, that love makes you do crazy things.”
“Oh, gimme a break,” she said. “Tell me, though, does he still kiss you like that?”
“Goodness, it’s 2:45 a.m! Don’t we have to get up early in the morning?” I yawned, “Goodnight, Amy, sweet dreams! May your peach come to you quickly!”
She groaned, and I pulled the covers up to my nose to hide my secret smile.