Before you get all excited about the title, thinking this is going to be a juicy romance novel-like chapter, let me set the stage for you: My best friends were about to graduate high school, as they were a year ahead of me. I watched them all throughout the year enjoy milestones without me: a senior trip, going to the prom with their boyfriends, senioritis. I felt the distance already forming as they were getting ready for a big transition in their lives, and I wasn’t any part of it.
Don’t get me wrong. My heart was so happy for them, and it was exciting to watch knowing this was about to be my journey next year. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel the premature pangs of loneliness, or doubt that I would have as great a senior year as they all did. So when they asked me to come along on their own end-of-the-year senior trip to Great Adventure, I was thrilled to be a part of such a bittersweet memory.
I love amusements parks.
I love thrill rides—the feeling of no control, being twisted and turned loop-de-loop, upside down, throwing my hands in the air as I feel the wind rush past my entire body.
I even love the sappy little carousel rides, because it brings out the inner child in me. So it was a playful day, walking around the park with my dearest of friends, and their friends.
We had all chipped in for a rented bus to take us to the New Jersey park, and it was packed out with some pretty loud high schoolers. Not everyone was from our high school though. My closest friends had brought their boyfriends (who brought their friends) from other school districts, so I was the “wheel” (or “cling-a-long” as I was affectionately called) as these couples walked through the park. It sucked at times, but thankfully, my friends would switch off going on rides with their beaus so I wasn’t always a single rider.
But then we caught up with another group and starting walking around with them, and there was a mix of girls and guys, not all partnered up, so I would rotate going on rides with different people, and that felt much more comfortable. So towards the end of the night, there were these two guys who were hanging out with us, one of which was very nice to me. We would talk and laugh, and go on rides, and I thought nothing of it.
Why would I? I was always the one with the crush, and not vice versa.
So imagine my surprise when my BFF asked me what I thought of him, only to reveal that he liked me. Well that sent unknown feelings through me that I’ve never experienced before: to be on the receiving end. (After all, nothing had ever happened romantically with my Toronto crush, so I was in very much uncharted territory.) He was a bit older than us, but only by a few years. Being armed with this knowledge made me nervous for the rest of the night, like my every move was being watched. (Oh, you
think by him? No—by every one of my girlfriends, curious over what could be my life-changing moment.)
These same girls had not so subtly orchestrated a change in seating so that me and this boy just so happened to now be sitting together for the two hour bus ride home that night. Awkward, indeed.
We talked for a little bit, yet the shyness within me would not cease. I felt like I wanted to throw up—either because I would be disappointed if he didn’t want to kiss me, or that I would disappoint him by sucking at kissing. I had convinced myself he looked like Richard Marx (who I had a major crush on as a teenager), so that made it tougher to be cool.
There was finally this moment where we were just looking at each other and smiled. I immediately looked down, and he asked if something was wrong. I couldn’t speak, so he filled the void by telling me he thought I was really pretty and that he wanted to kiss me, and asked me if I wanted to kiss him. Such an inexperienced little girl, I started laughing. Complete and utter nervous laughter, squeaking out a “maybe” and then looking back down again. Poor guy couldn’t bolt because he had the window seat; so instead, he took a piece of my hair and pushed it back behind my ear, lifted my chin up and gently kissed my lips.
He pulled away and looked into my eyes until I had the courage to kiss him back. Well, that unleashed 17 years of untapped love, ending up in an hour-long makeout session, followed by more innocent shoulder snuggling as we slept the rest of the trip home holding hands.
(You know, I now realize that bus rides seem to be pretty lucky for me, and I should take them more often!)
After that trip, I was teased for quite a few weeks by my friends, who thanked me for the entertainment and hounded me with the endless questions about the experience, if we were now dating, do we talk, etc. Nothing did ever come from it—we talked on the phone a few times, but that was it. I didn’t really feel much of a connection; either that, or I was scared shitless to actually have a boyfriend—or worse, my heart was still drawn to Toronto-boy and I couldn’t move on.
Ironically, a few years later when I was dating my soon-to-be husband, I ran into him and his friend at a local diner. They actually all knew each other—and of course, didn’t like each other. He no longer looked like Richard Marx to me; but he still had the kindness of being the man who knew how to ease a girl into her first kiss.
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