I wish I could take back my first kiss. I wish that it hadn’t been out of spite and jealous revenge. I wish that I hadn’t been stupid and drank that night. I wish for a lot of things, but most of all, I wish that I had dealt with everything differently, so I wouldn’t be stuck with this memory.

A sixteenth birthday party, especially your own, is supposed to be cherished. It’s supposed to be something to look back on with fondness and say, “Wow. That was great.” The night started out perfectly. My best friend Katie and I were sharing our party, and she arrived at my house to get ready. We pulled on our dresses and applied our make-up to the blasting tunes of Justin Timberlake and 50 Cent. An hour before our party, Katie pulled out a bottle of vodka.

“It’s our sixteenth!” she said, unscrewing the cap. “Have fun and drink up!” Although it was diluted with cranberry juice, the alcohol still burned my throat and my stomach, and immediately gave me a buzzing sensation in my head. I felt like I wasn’t myself, but that wasn’t such a bad thing. I was usually a wallflower, the shy girl in the back of the classroom who knew the answers but wouldn’t raise her hand. So maybe not being myself was good, especially on the night of my birthday.

That was my first mistake: Not being me.

The second didn’t occur until the guests started arriving. Since Katie and I don’t live in the same state, the coffee shop we had rented was soon packed with teenagers from New York and Connecticut. Katie and I enjoyed ourselves and began making regular trips to the bathroom to finish off the rest of the vodka in doses from the little plastic cups. We never got through the whole thing, and we didn’t need to. I was tipsy from the first sip, and I was probably drunk by the time the party was halfway through. It was that night I found out I was a lightweight.

With the flow of partygoers, my friend Chris finally arrived. I had known him since we were both three, and our relationship had been complicated ever since I started liking him as more than a friend. That summer, though, he had gotten a girlfriend, and when I called him to get together, he was always busy. Maybe I was being immature then, but he was my first real crush, and he was dating a girl who none of his other friends liked, and who hated me.

That was the second mistake: Letting my jealousy get to me.

I was going to make Chris see that I could be fun and beautiful, as well as intelligent. I already felt the part, with my hot pink dress, elegantly curled hair, and boosted confidence, so all I needed was to act like it. I danced and laughed and flirted, but he didn’t notice, or didn’t seem to care. In the middle of it all, I spotted the one who would make Chris experience the heartbreaking envy that I was feeling.

His name was Sam, and I hadn’t seen him in forever. When I still lived in an apartment about eight years ago, he lived in the room below me. Back then, though, he was an innocent boy who used to do everything with me, from skating to seeing movies to going trick-or-treating during Halloween. Now? He smoked, he drank, and he did drugs…. He was the complete opposite of me, and the epitome of the guy I was taught to stay away from. Despite that, I felt if anyone could help me, it would be Sam. No one knew him, he didn’t know anyone, and, best of all, he didn’t know the real me.

We were on the couch before I knew what was happening. I was curled up next to him, his arm around my shoulders, as we yelled to each other above the pounding music. Everyone was stealing glances in our direction, gossiping unbelievingly that I was actually with a boy, while Katie tried to avert their attention. There was some novelty to the moment, something that compelled me to actually start to like it. I had never had a boyfriend, and I had never had a boy pay this much attention to me before. I couldn’t believe it. Sam, who had probably had numerous girlfriends and partied every night, actually seemed like he was interested in me… Or, at least, the person he thought I was.

Which brings us to my third mistake: Letting it get too far.

When he leaned in to kiss me, I must have known on some level that it wasn’t really me he wanted to kiss. He wanted to kiss the vision I had created for myself. And I knew that I hadn’t really wanted him to kiss me anyway. I just wanted Chris to look over and see us talking and having a great time in the hopes that he’d realize we were meant to be together. But that’s not how it happened.

I leaned away as he was leaning forward.

“Are you going to kiss me?” I asked, which I immediately regretted. What was I doing, asking him that? How much of a loser could I be?

“Uh, yeah… I was thinking about it,” Sam said, looking perplexed — and rightfully so. I felt bad. Here he was, this cute boy who obviously wanted to kiss me, and there Chris was, already taken. I didn’t think about the consequences or the aftermath. In fact, I didn’t think much at all… my thought process was limited at the time. So I just smiled and leaned in, kissing Sam.

I felt nothing.

I had always imagined the setting for my first kiss to be somewhere romantic, like a beach or a park, or the front steps of my house. I had also imagined feeling something, like that flow of happiness to the heart that’s supposed to come with a kiss, but I didn’t feel that either. My first kiss, I realized with a shock, had just happened, and it was not at all as I pictured it. It had been on a worn leather couch at the back of a crowded room, with the music so loud I could barely hear and with a guy who I hadn’t seen for years, and didn’t know very well.

My plan hadn’t worked. By the time the night was over, I realized three things: Chris didn’t like me anymore than he had before (if anything, he probably lost his respect seeing me kissing a random guy), Sam and the rest of the teenagers there thought I was “easy,” and alcohol may seem like it can solve any problem, but when the effect is over, it leaves you picking up the pieces of your mistakes… alone.

N. A.

 

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