Scott phoned my grandmother’s house one evening and asked if I was interested in going to a movie. I was. Oh God, I was interested in going to a movie. I was interested in going to ALL of the movies. I would sit in every seat in that ridiculous little sticky-floored theatre, and I would watch whatever third-rate, fourth-run movie they were playing, and it would be the best movie I’d ever been to, every time I saw it because a boy…a BOY was there with me. A cute boy, nonetheless.
But it wasn’t Scott who picked me up. It was Matt. He came to my grandmother’s front door (how was he supposed to know that you weren’t to ever use the front door? She yelled at him again, and I just decided to go out the back. I told my Gram I’d be home at 11, and I probably slammed the door behind me). We met in the back yard, and he said something about Scott meeting us at the theatre. We walked in the early evening, under ‘helicopter trees’ and could hear the seed pods popping open even after the sun had begun its long descent. Matt didn’t offer an explanation for why Scott wasn’t there, and I didn’t much care.
I don’t remember the movie. I remember that Matt paid for my admission, and I fought with him over that, and over his buying me popcorn and a drink. I felt terribly guilty at letting someone who wasn’t my blood relative pay my way. Scott laughed at me. I sat between them. Neither of them tried to hold my hand, or put their arm around me. Scott would lean across me from time to time to say something to Matt, until I told him (Scott) that if he did it again, I was going to spit in his ear.
Later that night, after the movie, we went out for a ‘cruise’. You’ll know that in a small town, this can be as exciting as driving up and down the main strip enough times that you get dizzy. We drove up and down the strip twice – once to get slurpees, and once to get out of town. We drove across the bridge and onto the grid roads. Scott’s car was some kind of old-person sedan with dark maroon plush interior and a stereo Scott had put in that seemed only to play crap. We drove and drove and talked about nothing important. Well. Actually, Matt talked to me; Scott talked to Matt.
At one point, someone did something that Scott didn’t like by way of driving past him or keeping the brights on too long or, I don’t know, having a vehicle on the road at the same time. So he wheeled the car around on the highway, floored the pedal, caught up with, and then passed, the offending vehicle. A half-mile up the road, he spun the car around again and headed back toward the ‘assholes’, in the same lane, with his brights on. At the last minute, he swerved out of the way.
Scott thought it was great. Matt and I didn’t say much at all. Scott dropped me off at my grandmother’s house, and took off with Matt to go Somewhere Else. I thought about the freckles and how funny Scott could be and then realised it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to have red hair and freckles and a nice rump and a sense of humour. Matt had something Scott didn’t. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it was something I enjoyed.
The next day, Matt called again, and asked if I wanted to hang out that afternoon. I told him I did. He came to the house to pick me up, and rapped on the back door this time. My grandmother shouted, “don’t you invite that boy in here!”, and said something else that I don’t remember because I was still peevish about her having shooed us out of the house before (had she told me in the *first place* she didn’t want me to invite him over, I wouldn’t have), and chased me out of the house saying “why do you invite those boys over here? That’s not proper!” So I left.
I shouted something over my shoulder about being back later and I left the house. Matt and I sat around in front of the post office for a while. We walked over to the school yard and swung on the swings. We went to the convenience store and got slurpees and ice cream sandwiches. Then he invited me back to his house. I’d only been past his house, never inside, and so I agreed. It was getting blisteringly hot and my grandmother, although she had central air conditioning, wouldn’t use it. In fact, to this day, she still turns on the furnace at night in the summer.
Matt’s house sat well back from the street, with large spruce trees in the front and a rusting, not-used-in-six-years swingset just visible in the back. The trim was brown and the siding was a dirty burnished gold colour. Inside it was cooler, and Matt offered me a coke. We sat in the living room drinking coke and talking about…well…nothing. Music, I suppose. And movies. And books. And what it was like to be fifteen or sixteen in a small town in the Saskatchewan summer. What we most hated about school. What we kind of hoped for. Then we ran out of things to say.
I wanted to kiss him. To be more specific, I wanted him to kiss me. I wanted to know if his lips would be cool and dry or hard and hot. I wanted to know if he would brush the hair away from my cheek with the side of his hand. I wanted to feel his heart hammering against his chest, the way mine was hammering in mine.
He looked over at me and said, “do you want to see something cool?”
I said, “sure”, because I was one cool cucumber.
He said, “c’mere,” and he held out his hand to me.
Suddenly, there was my mother’s voice in my head, telling me that I should always remember that once a boy becomes sexually aroused they are, and I am quoting here, “physically incapable of stopping, so you always have to be the one to say stop, and mean it”. Then I thought, what, he’s just going to drag me off to another room to show me his johnson?. Then I thought, I don’t even know this guy! What am I thinking? Then I thought, I’m thinking that I want to know what it’s like to be held by a boy who wants to hold me. Then I thought, what if he just wants to show me his saxophone?, which was followed by oh is THAT what the kids are calling it these days?, which made me laugh.
“What’s so funny?” Matt asked.
“Nothing,” I said, putting my bottle of coke on the floor and taking his hand. My hand was sweaty. My hands are *always* sweaty when it’s hot out. His was cool and dry. I felt super self-conscious over that. I still do.
He led me into, not his bedroom, but his parents’ bedroom. That was a bit intimidating. And a bit weird.
I drew on everything I personally knew first-hand of dating and sex and kissing and all of that amounted to having “dated” a fellow a year before who’d finally screwed up the courage to hold hands with me after his buddies had dared him to. Who’d then kissed me, my first “real” kiss, at a friend’s birthday party. There had been music playing and the lights were turned low, and he’d asked me to dance (yes, we did dance at house parties, as weird as that seems to me now) and I had and he’d leaned down (because he was very tall) and his lips had hovered over mine and he’d worn braces and I could feel the fuzz of the beginnings of whiskers on his cheek and he’d pushed his lips against mine and then we were kissing and I was terrified that I would hurt him if I kissed back because he wore braces but then we were kissing and all I could think about was how we were kissing and how good it felt and, briefly, how much I hated Whitney Houston (that’s the music that was playing) but how I’d forgive her this one time because he was kissing me KISSING ME! in the basement of a girl’s house who wasn’t really a friend of mine but her friend was the girlfriend of my boyfriend’s best friend and so I’d been invited and all the other girls were so much more popular than I was. They even had white stirrup pants and pink and green checkered shirts and they wore shiny pink lipgloss and they’d all had boyfriends before and I was hopelessly, hopelessly in the wrong ball park.
But he kissed me. His breath was sweet, and he tasted like root beer, and when the song was over and so was the kissing, he whispered in my ear, ‘you taste like coconut’ (I was wearing pina colada flavoured lip gloss, because the 80s was all about lip gloss, you know), and I don’t think my feet touched the ground until he phoned me up a week later and said, “let’s just be friends”. He might as well have said, “you kiss like a chicken and you’re Not Cool.”
So I was in Matt’s parents’ bedroom with sweaty palms and a mind full of fear and doubt and my belly was full of ball bearings rolling around and knocking together and part of me wanted to be far, far away from there, sitting beside my father on the tractor, watching the field turn from dusty grey dirt clods peppered with green cochia and russian thistle to, as he would sing, “straight, dark rows”, and not talking about anything but just being there with my Da; and part of me wanted to be on that bed with this lean, strong boy beside me with his hand up my shirt and his mouth covering mine.
…you’ll have to wait for it…