The Summer of My Almost First Kiss
Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College
The Summer of My Almost First Kiss
Camping is like Nirvana for kids. It's a "can't miss" combination of sugar highs and dirt, and not a single shower in sight. There's the ubiquitous food on a stick, the "dangerous" critters that could leap out and steal your mother's fudge at any moment, and the endless stars that can actually be seen with the naked eye. It is the five-day play-date. It's where the inner pyromaniac is born. Kids are primed and ready to try anything with all the eagerness of the last day of school. I was one such eager kid. One summer I went camping in the Santa Cruz Mountains with my best friend Jamie, her parents, and their two cats. They thought nothing of taking their cats camping. I thought it was pretty funny, watching two cats on leashes walk on pine needles, but when the sun went down, I wasn't thinking about the cats.
Jamie was an only child, and as such was spoiled pretty much rotten. Her parents had misplaced trust in her because she took out the garbage as she was told. This didn't change in the woods of Santa Cruz. We were given our own tent to pitch across from her parents, and checkpoints throughout the day; otherwise, we were on our own. As evening fell on our first night, the moon, the flicker of the fire, and the crickets' song all came together to make a potent cocktail-one we were eager to binge on.
When the sounds of snoring could be heard from across the campfire, that was our cue. We had gone to bed with our clothes and jackets on, our escape premeditated. We quietly crept across the campsite. This was not an easy feat for two giggly fourteen-year-old girls. What was our destination? We had no clue. We were on the lam, like two fugitives escaping from the prison yard. We walked, breathlessly, electrified in our victory. We had made it! We were smug in our triumphant trickery. Soon the sounds of the surf could be heard, and I knew we were close to the beach. The destination had spoken.
There weren't many people on the beach, as you can imagine, at 1:00 in the morning. There were a few folks making out. There was a group of teenagers drinking beer by a bonfire, and some stoners smoking weed in an alcove. We had never seen these things before. We were babes to badness. We didn't know what to do with ourselves or what we were looking for.
As we passed that group of teenagers, one of them locked eyes with me. He was a few yards away. Before I knew it, he was walking towards us. This was not what I had in mind when we took off that night.
"Hey, what are you two doing out this late? Isn't it past your curfew?"
"Yeah," I giggled nervously.
"Well, do you want to go for a walk?"
I don't recall actually answering him. The next thing I remember this guy, "David," his friend, Jesse, and Jamie and I were walking down the beach. Naiveté was an understatement when it came to describing my perception. Why were these guys walking with us anyway?
Suddenly, I realized Jamie had disappeared, and so had David's friend. I was alone with David, and we were truly alone. I hadn't noticed how far we had walked away from the others on the beach. Suddenly I was frightened.
"Where did our friends go?" I asked.
"Oh, just over there."
He pointed to a small cliff hanging above the beach. I could barely make out the two figures sitting there, but one of them was wearing a pink bandana on her head. I squinted into the semi-darkness. What were they doing up there? I could see the back of Jamie's head, and that's when it hit me. Was she kissing him? We didn't kiss boys; at least, I didn't think we did. We had not discussed this before. This was the age of discussing everything, absolutely everything, with one's best friend. I just naturally assumed we would talk this one out too, and then come to some mutual agreement on when it was okay to start kissing boys. Instead, she just went ahead without me and did the dirty deed. I was angry. The nerve of her! I didn't approve at all. We didn't even know these boys! As I turned towards the cliff, prepared to stomp up there in all my righteous indignation, David gently grabbed my shoulders.
"So, let's talk about what we are going to do and what we're not going to do." I stammered out, "I gotta go," and ran, as fast as one can in the sand, away from this hormonal sixteen-year-old boy. I ran up the cliff, grabbed Jamie by the back of her jacket, and tugged hard.
"Let's go," I said, panting from the sprint uphill. "What if your parents wake up?" She didn't even come up for air, just waved me away while continuing her business. I appealed to her conscience:
"Jamie, we shouldn't be here. This isn't right."
I had played the morality card. It didn't work. She finally broke away and looked at me, incredulity written all over her face.
"I'm fine. Please, leave me alone. I'll see you back at camp."
She had never done this to me before, shooing me away like an annoying fly. I wasn't mature enough or old enough really to insist that she go. If I waited around, well, what does one do while a friend is locking lips with someone? I did what any fourteen-year-old would do when faced with a dilemma. I left her there, slowly meandering back to camp alone. I never looked back to see what became of David. The truth was he was probably suffering from some minor disappointment, much like anyone feels when their ice cream hits the pavement. You can always go back inside and get another.
I made it back to camp, although it took me awhile. I felt disoriented in the dark. When I finally found my way back, there were no signs that anyone had been awake. As I unzipped the tent, imagine my surprise to discover Jamie, peacefully snuggled in her sleeping bag. I hit her sack with my flashlight, but she didn't wake up, and I was too tired to hash it out anyway.
We didn't venture out anymore after that and I never did ask her about that boy. There was an unspoken understanding: Jamie kisses boys and I don't. I did eventually kiss a boy, but later, and on my own terms. I have thought about that night many times since. It was a "coming of age" moment in a sense, opening my eyes to things to come. I have played out different, far more ominous outcomes in my head. I have been awe-struck at how brazen we were to sneak out like that.
Now that I am married, and a mother with children of my own, I still love camping. I still get excited come nightfall. The moon and the stars come out to play, and we build a big fire, and eat as many s'mores as our tummies can handle. I am aware that someday my children will experience their own first kiss, or almost first kiss, and I will be nowhere in sight to stop it. For now, however, they will sleep in the big tent with their parents-safe and sound.