My first taste of beer was from a kiss I never wanted. As the moment happened, I thought maybe my screaming insides were telling me that I wanted it. That this unknown feeling inside of me wasn't fear - it was desire. I imagined that I was supposed to like it - love it even - eyes closed, chin up, mouth slightly opened - wispy and blurry like dreams. I didn't enjoy it. I was afraid. The taste was too foreign, too bitter. The whole experience was too soon. But you can't ever change your first kiss or your first taste of alcohol and my encounter with both was at the same time.
It changed me. This thing. What happened. I didn't know it at the time but it defined what I would remember. What I would feel. It became the photographic negative. The reverse memory of everything I would ever associate with intimacy. It was the summer my parents traveled to Europe and left me with my grandparents on my mother's side. It was 1986 and I was nearly 14.
The Moody Blues song, "Wildest Dreams" is the song I associate with the beer kiss. Maybe I heard the song just before that moment or right after, but that song and my memory of it are intertwined. I've tried to forget that day but honestly the song brings me right back to the pecan tree, gravel driveway and the oven-hot summer day. The remains of that moment stay with me. I'm forty five and at times, out of the blue, I'm scared and 14. I never understood until I was much older why that song in one moment made me feel good and in another made me feel all wrong.
Before that kiss, my signature childhood "Laura Ingalls Wilder" braids were gone and unraveled into frizzy, wavy should-length hair. It was thick, course and almost completely unmanageable since no one bothered to introduce me to conditioner or a flat iron. As long as White Rain made hair spray, I'd be fine. Or so I thought. But I wasn't fine. I tried to figure out who I was and maybe that meant letting go of the Jordache horse logo t-shirt and signature jeans. Maybe I needed to find my way into more feminine styles, like Madonna lace hair ties and neon rubber bracelets. If I had those, I'd be a girl who would be noticed. Not passed over or ignored. I considered boxing up all of my plastic horse figurines when I got back home. I loved horses but they were probably babyish.
What I remember next was loud music - but it wasn't rock and certainly not my aunt's favorite radio station which played Culture Club and Prince. It wasn't the worn out 78s my grandparents played like The Stadler Brothers or The Oak Ridge Boys. This noise was screaming techno - like the sound computers make when they're glitching and connecting. An "eeeee - eeeee - eeeee" sound. They were like the sharp noises portrayed in movies about outer space. My ears hurt but I was trapped in the backseat of a car that I should've never been in and now I couldn't get away from it. The movement of the car - jerky and erratic - distracted my mind from the pulsing music that stung my brain. I knew the road we were on and I knew we weren't far from Granny's so I willed myself not to throw up before the guy driving his piece of crap green junk car turned into her driveway. I looked down to make sure my shoe laces were tied tight. My thighs were sweating and sticking to the vinyl seats. I wanted to run as soon as I could. Making the middle school track team made perfect sense to me now. The car swung to the left then made a hard right. I slid across the backseat and banged my head against the side window. I reached my hand to my head to see if it was bleeding and felt relief when it wasn't. The solace of reaching Granny's house made my chest swell with hope and dried my throat as I held back tears. I would be safe soon. I would be safe soon. I would be safe soon.
As soon as the car slowed, I opened the door and watched the gravel move below me. It was blurry - like watching the moon's surface move from far away. A bird's view soaring over gray and white. I was nauseous. My step out of the car was unsteady and I fell to the ground in a crumbled ball. The car came to a stop a few feet away. My cousin and that guy were laughing at me. As an adult, I don't care when I think of their sniggering but I remember my fourteen year old self feeling inferior. I was being tossed aside because I was used and worthless. I scrambled to a standing position then I ran. I ran to the cornfield behind my grandparent's house. Deep into the safety of it.
Before that day, I was afraid of the towering stalks, the bugs, the worms, the snakes, even the sweet corn smell seemed as if it were rotting in the sun. It sickened me. But today I ran through it, sticky leaves smacked against me, dirt clods gave obstacles for my thin ankles to maneuver. I stumbled, losing myself in the rows. My sneakers were covered in red dust and the dried out stalks and husks thrashed my bare legs. I couldn't run on the uneven ground any longer. I collapsed when I ran out of breath but I was satisfied my feet had carried me this far. No one was chasing me. I sat up and curled my filthy shoes underneath me. Dust and dirt were all over the bottom of my shorts. My knee had a bloody streak mixed with red clay. I felt gross but safe. Those boys didn't care where I was or who I was....and at that moment....I remember thinking that I didn't much care for myself either. But I was safe now. I was safe now. I was safe now. The ringing in my ears made me feel sick but I put my head between my knees and focused on the sound the leaves made when they moved above me. Like fans and brooms. Swishing. Blowing and sweeping it all away. Nature's music renewing my mind and whisking away dusty thoughts.
Seeds to Share:
Psalm 71:20-21 - Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once more.