A sticky vinyl seat in a classic Yellow Dog provided the setting for my first kiss. Coveted moments when boys and girls were able to mingle in the school bus after a hard fought basketball game or particularly rough one act play contest were reason enough to take part in extracurricular activities.
Truth or Dare was, and probably still is, the old standby game always guaranteed to induce butterflies in curious sixth grade tummies during late night rides on the Bluff Dale Bobcat Express. A triumphant hoops win ensured good moods abounded as my teammates and I sat in a haphazard clump of a circle in the rear of the dark, frosty bus.
Just one pitch-black bus seat away from me sat the tanned and decidedly chiseled Keith, the dreamy boy for whom I pined. I did my best to play coy and casual when around that eleven-year-old stud muffin, but how could a goody two shoes like me ever manage to hang? We were talking about a guy whom had probably already kissed a girl and maybe even felt her up, a guy who was the best at sports and long division to boot!
At this tender age, I plotted out my life that was to be spent with the boy whom was too cool to even tight roll his jeans. l had all but charted out the table placements for our wedding that I lived vicariously through my dolls. As the object of my affection, he was without a doubt the Ken for whom my Barbie lived.
Not only did I have us married in the land of dolls, but I had the familial relationship down pat as well. Keith´s grandparents attended the same Southern Baptist church as my family so in order to impress the future in-laws I would get gussied up on Sunday mornings, crossing my fingers they´d bring their naughty little grandson along.
Blessed were the days when my beloved would show up, sitting unaffectedly in a pew close behind me. I´d be sure to sip my communion grape juice daintily and squirm just a perfect amount so that my sweater would "accidentally" slide off a knobby shoulder. That sliver of girlish flesh would surely woo him! And my retainer clad smile most certainly would seal the deal.
Back on the bus, the Dare was on me. This was go time. I had recently learned my betrothed would be, gasp, going to a different school next year! My handsome athlete was so strong a bigger school wanted to groom him to be a star football player in high school. Well, if he was soon to be in the clutches of the sporty and sophisticated Stephenville girls, it was imperative I go for the winning pass stat.
"Jacquelyn, I dare you to…"
The wheels were surely churning under my Darer´s head of mousy hair. Maybe she needed some help though, a little nudge in formulating my perfect moment with Keith.
"What about making a boy give a girl a lemon drop…with his mouth? That would be crazy and so gross!" I slyly quipped, as I slid the magical lemon drop into her sweaty palm.
Throwing my whisper to the dull-witted lass, I was the slithering serpent in the garden and I wanted my apple, the little devil on her shoulder feeding her the lines in my play. I was born a glutton for adventure, slave to romance, Cupid´s bitch.
"Ooh, I´ve got a good one," she said as she fingered the lemon drop. "Keith has to pass this drop to Jacquelyn…with his mouth!"
Cha-ching! Touchdown! Now take it down a level, Self.
"Oh goodness, I don´t know, that´s just so, well okay, because I´m a team player and it´s not really a kiss, but a means to an end, getting the lemon drop passed that is," skittishly came out of my thin, chapped lips as my excitement bubbled over and Blackcats burst in my belly.
Holy smokes, I was about to embark upon the rest of my life. I was going to have my first kiss ever with Keith! As my fantasy future husband and I shuffled into the Dare Chair, otherwise known as the back bench of the bus, visions of my parents standing over me menacingly saying I couldn´t date until I was sixteen bombarded my mind.
"Now you listen here, daughter," said my dad with a jocular yet sinister gleam in his eye. "I´ll use any boy you go out with as target practice, just string ´em up in front of a big round hay bale out behind the house and fire away! Then I´ll tack his taxidermied head up on the wall beside the bellowing bull caribou and chocolate elk. It´ll serve as warning to the other guys up to no good."
Surely he was kidding, right? Or was I on the fast track to the red light district of Harlotville? Jeepers, what kind of lascivious mess had I painstakingly gotten myself into? Barely into the double digits, I was suddenly convinced I deserved a scarlet letter scalded onto my forehead that was quickly becoming devoid of any color whatsoever.
Trembling and attempting to catch my breath to no avail, I mustered every grain of courage in my basketball jersied beanpole body and locked eyes with K-E-I-T-H with my beating heart dotting the I. Keith, with his cascading cowlick and hazel eyes, the hippest dude in school with his rap music and one overall strap unhinged.
And for a moment on that bench I wasn´t half bad myself. Sitting next to him felt right and mature. We genuinely cared for each other, and I suspected we were years ahead of the other kids in terms of adult feelings, but that nagging fright God would strike me dead for pre-marital anything, even emotions, persisted.
Cool Keith smoothly popped the drop into his mouth and politely asked if I was ready. Yes. Yes, I was ready to take this leap with him, this leap into a grown up sexual world, away from chastising parents and scolding Saviors.
Having covertly licked my pursed lips and not having a clue what their next movement should be, I meekly nodded, closed my eyes, and leaned forward towards destiny. Our frigid and taut mouths touched trepidatiously as did our slender shoulders. He parted his mouth and I followed his lead feeling his smooth tongue probing for an opening. We both peeked and shared a nervous giggle but vowed to stay the course.
The clever lemon drop that bonded us rolled over his tongue and tingled its way onto mine. Our duty was done, our Dare completed. We lingered for a moment longer, feeling the energy of an emerging adolescence, then quickly pulled apart snickering and cracking jokes to lessen the intensity of our sacred moment.
The lemon drop switcheroo itself lasted a handful of seconds, but the new feelings it elicited certainly stayed long after the school bus reached home.