Lucy Giardino Cortese
MEMORABLE FIRST KISS
Who doesn’t remember their first kiss? A peck from a junior high beau? A passionate smooch from a high school sweetheart? Did you practice puckering up before a bedroom mirror in anticipation? My rite of passage came at an early age and I initiated it.
On the playground at recess in 2nd grade– I just did it. Being a foot taller than little Davy, he could not escape my grasp. I push the little guy behind the ligustrum hedge and lay one on him, right on the lips. Karma paybacks are hell, and I have severe allergic reactions to this popular bush to this very day.
Davy wrestles his perpetrator and tries to get free of my amorous advances. But to no avail. I envision the unforgettable caress in the movie, From Here to Eternity. Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr lip-locked on the shore of Waikiki Beach while the warm waves of the Pacific flow over their intertwined bodies. No wonder my parents tried to divert my attention from that particular scene at the family drive-in theatre the week before.
When Davy’s struggles are fruitless, he begins yelling. Teacher discovers our hiding place and is witness to the crime: Davy’s frantic slap across my face. Off to the principal’s office we go. Mr. S, a gun-toting Southerner leads the interrogation.
Mr. S: What happened?
Me: Davy slapped me right across my face.
Davy: But, but, first she…
Mr. S: Young man, what gentleman would ever accost a young lady in such a way?
Davy: Tell him what you did…
Me: (smiling smugly)
Mr. S: What do you have to say for your unseemly conduct to this sweet Southern belle?
Davy: I’m sorry.
Mr. S: Your behavior earned yourself 3 swats with Captain Paddle. Lucille, you may go back to class.
Leaving the principal’s office that day, I think of returning to save poor Davy from capital punishment. When the door closes, the sound of wham, wham and wham flows through the overheard window transom. Fears of my own encounter with Capt. P dismisses any would-be confessions from this culpable assailant.
Many years pass and I mature. Sassy seven-year old. Belligerent high school student. Confident college graduate. Mature married woman. Many kisses later, I never forget that first encounter with Davy. I also remember how I threw him under the proverbial school bus. As a school principal myself, I vow to get both sides of the story from students sent to my office–the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
I stare at the invitation to my 50th High School Class Reunion with a pang of guilty conscience. If Davy is there, I will apologize. This confession will hopefully free me of decades of Catholic guilt–the sin of omission. Remorse+repentance= salvation.
The hotel ballroom is with filled streamers, balloons and decorations, the blue and gold colors of Paxon High School. Two-hundred wrinkled faces appear remotely similar to the senior photos pinned to lapels. Balding heads replace crew cuts. Former cheerleaders now more zaftig than svelte. My eyes search and find him.
Davy’s features are marred by age…blue eyes behind horn-rimmed glasses; sandy hair, slightly thinner, with an abbreviated comb-over; football star muscles somewhat flabby. Still attractive to me: first crush, first kiss, first love lost.
Me: Davy, I have something to say. All my life, I’ve wanted to say how sorry I am. For never apologizing. For…
Davy: What did you say your name is?
Me: Don’t you remember? Second grade I took you behind the bush. I kissed you. You slapped me. We got sent to the principal. You got 3 swats from Captain Paddle. I never told the truth…
Davy: I don’t know what you’re talking about, lady. Good seeing you again anyway.
Is my humiliation born of an unwarranted confession? Regret for an unremembered incident so important to me? The ultimate embarrassment–my very first kiss forgotten by the object of my affection? Or is Davy’s “forgetfulness” an act of long overdue retaliation???
In Congreve’s 17th century play, Love for Love, the character Tattle (revealing name) advises his lover, Miss Prue, “O fie, Miss, you must not kiss and tell.” Whether 1695 or in the 21th Century…I say, Amen to that.