Friends we’ve lost: What about the ones we’ve fallen out of touch with, the ones we’ve let go? This conversation came up on Real Life Survival Guide’s Episode 52: “Redefining Friendship.” Some friends were particularly important, inspired us, listened, consoled, brought insight to our lives just when we needed awakening, stole our hearts, broke our hearts. But they were all friends nevertheless, critical to our growth as people, and it would be nice to go out and grab a drink with each of them—the special ones—to find them again, to tell them, “You mattered. You’ll always matter.” There’s one I’d like to tell.
My First Kiss happened at a certain Chamber Music Institute I attended that summer between seventh and eighth grade. I was thirteen and he (let’s call him Jiminy—to get even) was fourteen: older, smarter, and fine-featured with bird-like yet beautiful bone structure and wavy dark Vidal-Sassoon locks you’d expect in a fine artist. I took him for a prodigy; Jiminy could already perform the major cello concertos by then: Saint-Saens, Dvorak, Elgar. His solo with piano accompaniment in the massive college music hall floored me. I treasured any glimpse my way from his searching brown eyes, windows into a keen mind that had already scored a perfect 1600 SAT. He called himself an “agnostic atheist,” whatever that meant. And even though he was smaller and skinnier than I, he attracted me with his worldliness, quick intellect and humor and his lovely, aristocratic face. He was better and he knew it, and I could scarcely believe my good luck that he was making out with me on those hard, orange-carpeted stairs in the empty band room.
“You’re so cute together!” the violin-and-viola sisters from Newburgh assured us. I didn’t take our relationship lightly; he was my first kiss, after all, my first real boyfriend. Surely that had cosmic importance. We were meant for one another. When we took a Sunday field trip to an amusement park halfway through our total two weeks—alas, only one more week left to love!—Jiminy and I cuddled together on the green, vinyl-upholstered bus seat, his head on my shoulder (me being larger and all) and soaked up our fleeting moments of bliss unless you counted his eye. He’d popped a blood vessel in his left eye; it was black and red and pretty gross, though unnoticeable from his right side or when he wore sunglasses. Unsettling, but it wouldn’t last a few days or more. I’d stand by him despite his disfigurement.
Only one problem: Jiminy didn’t stand by me. At the amusement park, I kept losing him and ended up spending the day mostly with the viola sister from Newburgh. He rode rides with other girls who were older, attractive, advanced string players. But that was cool; we were secure enough in our relationship to give each other space. “Jiminy!” Happy to see him at last, I patted the bus seat next to me as we loaded to return home. He joined me, but I sensed reluctance. Two days later at the Tuesday dance, he ignored me and danced closely with loud Haley from the south. Sure that Jiminy would ask me to dance, too, I stayed loyal and turned down an offer from Haley’s tall, handsome big brother (and regretted it after). Later that night Haley announced to our entire dorm floor: “Jiminy French-kissed me!” I didn’t know what French kissing was but it figured: Jiminy had gone to Haley because I was inadequate, because I hadn’t tried something he wanted to try—and he hadn’t cared enough to bother asking.
Still, I held on to this notion that he was my boyfriend even when backstage, during the final concert, he ran his fingertips along another long-haired, beautiful brunette’s forearm. She reclined in her chair and eyed him disdainfully. I figured he didn’t mean it—a simple flirtation, that’s all. Jiminy loved me; he had to; he was my first kiss for crying out loud! He’d stolen my heart, so entwined with his that it must be as difficult for him as for me to bear the thought of us separating. We kissed good-bye and that mattered—he knew in the end I was the one, had always been the one—but when I returned home and wrote him a long letter missing him, pouring my heart out about life in Corning and asking him how he was, he never wrote back.
* * *
Reader, I friended him.
Not. But I did find him on Facebook. Jiminy plays cello across the ocean. I could write: “You may not remember me, but you were my first kiss. Don’t worry about me. I’ve had a great life. I know you think about me daily, but it’s okay, I’m doing fine. Without you.”
No. I’ll leave him alone. Our friendship was perfect the way it was. It flourished and perished, and that’s okay; the relationship served its purpose. I could finally check off My First Kiss. I learned a lot about guys. But it’s over now, and we’ve moved on (or at least I have—he’s probably not over me), and I wish him well.
Mary Elliott is a stay-at-home Mom with four children, one husband and two leopard geckos. She has a Yale B.A., a Ph.D. in English from Boston College, and—in her old life—taught writing, English and American lit courses at B.C., Gonzaga University & Whitworth College in Spokane, WA.
Upon the birth of her twins in Colorado, she perished rather than published, but has written a couple of novels that need serious rework before they see the light of day. She contributes to Real Life Survival Guide’s Guest Editor blog, is active with the Madison Land Conservation Trust and likes to play the fiddle, hike, bike-ride and unwind with good friends.