"I dunno," he shrugged. "She didn't like to kiss."
We slid into a cozy booth and immediately began catching up on our
love lives, just like we'd done for decades previous, only this was
the first time we were doing it in person in 22 years.
I forgot the number but he remembered it.
"Yup, it's been 22 years. Maybe 23?"
I guess he forgot too. There'd been moves and marriages and even a few
years where we didn't talk at all, but each time we picked up where we
left off just as easily.
I slid a birthday card across the table. "I know we should order and I
want to hear more about this girl but first things first. Happy
birthday!" He read it, smiled broadly and got up to hug me. Then he
slid back into his side of the booth.
"So you broke it off?" I prompted.
"Yeah, I felt really bad when she started crying. She told me she was
starting to fall in love. But if you don't feel it, you don't feel it,
what can you do?" He shook his head sadly.
"What do you mean she didn't like to kiss?"
"She just didn't. She said she didn't like wet lips."
"Do you think you could maybe have started to have stronger feelings
if that part meshed better?"
"Who knows," he replied, looking into the distance.
We became friends in high school when I boy whose name I no longer
remember urged this guy, his best friend, to call me and arrange a
date. "I don't LIKE him that way," I'd said then, irritated at the
call from a stranger. He backpedaled. "Okay, I'm not forcing anything,
he just asked me to talk to you."
We chatted after that and then again and again and somehow it turned
into a friendship. Soon he got his license and visited me. I don't
remember how old I was but I think it was before I ever had a serious
boyfriend, maybe 15?
We had one almost-romantic encounter. We spent the evening laughing
and when he turned to leave, he hugged me by the front door and didn't
let go. We stood like that for a moment and then my mom appeared,
shattering the silence with an angry "WHAT IS GOING ON??" question
that didn't require an answer as much as a command to end whatever
unscrupulous activities she suspected were beginning to unfold.
We both lept away from each other. "I was just leaving," he said, and
I don't remember if he ever came over again after that.
But we still talked. He went away to boot camp and I played him
Whitesnake songs when he called on Sundays, parched for some crass NJ
flair, deprived of music for those backbreaking 8 weeks. Eventually we
both fell into other relationships and the friendship settled into an
almost girlfriend-like place in that boundaries were comfortably
etched into place; no flirtatious undercurrent ever flowed. It was
safe. I could tell him anything.
When I lived with my dad at 19, he called me one afternoon from the
recycling center where he worked. "You wouldn't BELIEVE the stuff
people drop off here," he said. "Piles and piles of porn mags." I
shrieked, having only seen Playboy and Penthouse and harboring a
healthy curiosity for the underground. "WHAT??!?"
"I'll bring you a stack on my way home," he offered, feeding my delight.
I was in the kitchen making myself a snack when he showed up holding a
stack of fetish ass & breast magazines as promised. The covers
featured freakishly-proportioned folks in positions far raunchier than
the gentlemanly Playboy (or higher publishing standards?) would allow.
I laughed and put the stack aside to finish making my snack, we
chatted a bit and he left.
Then I went upstairs with my snack to finish studying. I don't know
how to explain that I FORGOT the magazines were there, but I did. I
was wrapped up in some school assignment. This personality trait may
explain why my friends think I'm so nerdishly naive but I can really
hyperfocus sometimes. So I went upstairs like a targeted missile and
dove back into my studies.
About 3 hours later, there was an urgent knock on my bedroom door. My
stepmom swung it open. I glanced sideways through crazy study hair
(when you're simultaneously piling it on top of your head to get it
out of the way and then ripping it all out in frustration) and only half
looked at her before turning back to the piles of textbooks sprawled
out on my bed, grunting "mmm?"
"YOU LEFT THESE IN THE KITCHEN," she announced, unceremoniously
dropping the stack of tasteless porn on my bed and whirling out. I
instantly slapped my forehead, collapsed onto my books and died
laughing. Stealth fail!! I still wonder what she thinks of that
incident as we've not spoken of it since. But I remain convinced that
she thought the books were a poor ruse for my obvious career path into
prostitution. What could I possibly have said? "They're not mine"???
Sometimes there's just nothing that can be said. You take your
embarrassment pill and you deal. I dialed my buddy and whisper-hooted
into the phone uproariously and he cracked up. Stepmom remained unamused.