This Changes Everything

I was waiting alone in front of a grocery store on a warm, May day in 1988.

I thought I looked pretty good, actually. I had picked my clothes carefully; I can still remember exactly what I wore. Black pants, a black tank top, and a white cardigan style knit top over the tank top. I dressed carefully because I wanted to look good that day.

I was going to see a performance by the school’s jazz band. I’d been invited the previous night by Joe, of my sixth hour independent music study. I’d been thinking about going anyway; all of my best friends these days were in the jazz band. There was Joe, of course, who had continued to grow his friendship with me while taking breaks from practicing for college auditions. There was Dean, a piano player who was so extraordinary in his talent that we all thought he might seriously be a little nuts. But he had a kind heart, and I had been getting closer with him this year as well. There was Mike, who was salutatorian to my valedictorian, and the other Mike, who was a year younger than us but had more talent than most of us. I knew pretty much everyone in the group, and liked them, so I wanted to support them by showing up. It wasn’t like a lot of people would show up to a grocery store performance.

When I showed up, I was the only person there. Everyone was grateful I’d shown up, and I soaked in the sun and the music gratefully. I was finally starting to feel good about my life; I was about to graduate, I had many new and wonderful friends, I knew what I wanted, finally. No one was pushing me down, I was moving forward. A few more people showed up as the performance began.

Dean and Joe invited me out after the performance. Dean was a piano player I’d been working with for a performance that was coming up. He and Joe happened to be best friends, so it was a natural thing; I knew and liked both of them. I was excited that they both wanted to spend some time with me, a girl. I respected them both for their musicianship; plus the both just seemed like cool guys.

Not only that, but I felt like something was happening with Joe. Each time I saw him, I felt like a thin wire was drawing us closer together. As the hours passed, I started to tick off small confirmations that he felt the same. Dean was driving the three of us; I would catch Joe looking at me and then quickly look away when I caught him at it. He offered to sit in the back seat with me so I wouldn’t be alone back there; his body was just a little closer than it needed to be. There were questions, there was talking, and suddenly it was evening and none of us wanted to leave each other’s company.

We went back to Dean’s house and to his finished basement. He had tons of music equipment down there; Dean and Joe started futzing on the equipment while I supplied an eager and interested audience. And then suddenly, Dean needed to leave; I don’t remember at all why. What I do remember was that Joe and I started joking and laughing, and then he was tickling me.

We were on the floor, laughing and rolling and giddy with all of the physical contact, when suddenly I looked into his eyes, with a question. A moment, a hesitation, and then we both moved towards each other with our mouths slightly open.

It was the longest, sweetest, slowest first kiss. It went on for what seemed like hours. I didn’t want it to stop; it was the most amazing feeling. I’d never experienced anything like it. It was sweet, like thick honey; I knew I should stop, but I just couldn’t.

We heard Dean coming back and pulled apart. We got up quickly off of the floor and sat together on the sofa, so close to each other that our legs were touching. Joe took my hand in his, and used his free hand to stroke the top of mine.

Dean took one look at us, with our flushed cheeks and intertwined hands, and said, “Oh, wow, that’s awesome! Good for you guys!”

Joe and I looked at each other; we both knew that this was going to be something big.


One Response

  1. […] Karen and Dean.  I took this as a good sign.  Dean and Joe were best friends; in fact, it was in Dean’s basement where Joe and I had shared our first kiss.  For Dean to support something this forward thinking […]

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