by Kalli Abbott
There’s something about a dimly lit street in a college town at 10:14 p.m. Maybe it’s the haphazard placement of lights on the telephone poles—not enough to see faces from a distance, but just enough that my eyes quickly adjusted to his face. We’d been in the parking lot a few times before, but today we stood for a minute too long, saying goodbye before the holiday break.
There’s something else, too; something about the moments before you’re about to be kissed, about the way your stomach might fill with butterflies or, in my case, churn like bad milk. It might be easy to think about all the times you didn’t kiss someone and should have. Or about when mom said sometimes you could be attracted to someone after you kiss them. And it might be easy to think, what the heck, and forget about your stomach for long enough to meet his eyes for a second too long—a second that is the signal, the OK, the go-ahead for him to lean his long neck down nearly a foot to reach you (or maybe less if you’re standing on the curb). It’s in this second that you might realize where you are, and the paranoia about your roommates looking out the window or cars driving down the street might get to you, and you might want to back out and pull away, but you also remember your mom and the guilt and that you’re both going home for the holidays next week.
And so, it happens. Yes, my eyes closed, and that could be attributed to romance. It could also be attributed to fear, or panic, like every time I thought I’d get hit in the head with a basketball or volleyball, and I simply closed my eyes and swung my arms around aimlessly, hoping to get the ball into the basket or over the net. “You can’t get any points with your eyes closed,” Coach always said.
But my eyes closed now, and my lips were trapped in an immortal smooch, my arms hanging limp in defeat by my sides. His glasses slid down the bridge of his nose until they touched my face, the cold metal making me flinch, and he pulled away. This is when you might be overwhelmed with relief—overjoyed that the moment by the car on the curb in the yellow lamplight came to a close, and I, like you, opened my eyes and smiled with the thought of escape. But! Not so! He closed his eyes again and I stared at his lips, now shiny and coming straight towards me, puckered and looking like two pink guppies fresh out of the fish tank at the pet store, and soon it’s happening again, my lips disappearing into wet pillows made cold by the breeze. Will I cry? I wonder, my arms still hanging, his hands searching for something to hold onto.
When he finally pulls away, I finally catch my breath and hug my arms over my chest. He looks at me with a kind of proud adoration, the kind of look my grandpa gives me when I tell him he makes the best bread ever. A car drives by. I glance at my phone. It’s 10:16 p.m. He’s still looking at me.
“Just one more,” he says and hinges at the waist, a domino falling towards me with those wet pillow lips, and I’m trapped, and my insides are screaming, and as it says in Philippians 4:13, I endure all things with some kind of godly strength. I pull away, clenching my fingers around my jacket in an attempt to resist wiping my face off and say good night before turning and walking down the street to my apartment. He’s still standing there, but I won’t look at him.
There’s something about opening the door at 10:18 p.m. to your apartment and walking in, your roommate sitting on the couch binge-watching TV dramas. She’ll turn around and ask you if anything happened. You’ll look at her, picturing his face, feeling his hands on you, and start to cry. There’s nothing quite like the tears shed after the kind of kiss you give someone because you’d feel too guilty if you didn’t.
Kalli Abbott is an MFA graduate in creative nonfiction who teaches writing to 15-year-olds and lives off Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and great stories. She loves to observe, record, and teach.