Kisses sweeten life, but the memory of most fade as quickly as the taste of chocolate on one’s tongue. Some linger in our minds, though, with a playback that’s lush with color and rich in flavor. Among my recollected kisses, one stands out in vivid detail.
It happened when I was 17. Our small town bids the summer farewell with a gala county fair, a tradition that’s lasted for over 100 years. Then, as now, it was common for teens to snag a week’s employment manning various concessions. It’s an arrangement that works for all involved— the vendors get cheap and relatively pliant laborers, while the kids get a handful of cash to save, spend on school clothes, or blow in meaningless hedonism.
That summer before my senior year, I toiled through fair week selling candies for a sweets merchant. My work station was in one of the fair ground’s enclosed buildings, and foot traffic moved at a steady, though not frenetic, pace.
Steady, though not frenetic–—those words could describe my collected romantic experiences as well. There was usually something stirring in that area, although (unlike what I perceived to be the case among other girls) it was hardly a roller coaster ride. I was cute enough but not flashy, friendly but not yet an accomplished flirt.
One afternoon at work, I noticed an adorable boy walk by with a couple of buddies. Noticing adorable boys was a frequent pastime of mine, but this time the boy noticed me back. The three made several passes in front of my candy table, and on each trip the blond one managed a stealthy glance. What luck! It was the blond who’d caught my attention as well; he was even-featured and nicely assembled, with what appeared to be vivid blue eyes. When he laughed with the other boys, his smile was broad and just a little crooked. I was immediately smitten. The county fair draws patrons from all over central PA, and this sweet thing wasn’t anyone I recognized from my own high school. For me, that heightened the appeal.
The following day he appeared again with the same two buddies, only this time they stopped to buy some candy. When he came back later to buy more I knew it was really happening; for some reason the fates had chosen to throw me a bone, and I certainly wasn’t ungrateful enough to waste the opportunity.
The next day when he showed up to buy candy, we chatted amiably through the transaction. Tim was his name, and he did indeed live in a neighboring school district. Then I made a bold move: he paid with a five dollar bill, and I only pretended to make change before placing the same five right back into his hand. He started to question my math, but I cut him off with a blithe, “Don’t worry, I’ve got it.” Tim smiled an uneven smile that made the edges of his blue eyes crinkle, and ran off to meet some friends. As soon as he was out of sight, I dug into my purse to pay for the candy I’d “given” him, certain that if I didn’t make it right the fates would be displeased and take back my pretty new toy before I’d really had a chance to play.
On Tim’s return to my booth he didn’t even to pretend want candy; we just flirted shamelessly between my paying customers. The air around us grew so hot I could imagine shrugging coyly when the boss wondered later why the chocolates at my station had become gooey. In the history of teenagers no boy and girl had ever been cooler, though, and I celebrated my newfound coquettishness with my cleverest move ever-—when Tim started to leave I called him back long enough to press a single red licorice heart into his palm. I was rewarded once again with that adorable,eye-crinkling smile.
I completely expected to see Tim appear the next day, but when he did there was a pretty brunette clinging possessively to his arm. They were among a group of beautiful couples, and as they moved past my candy booth Tim looked briefly and helplessly in my direction.
“Shit,” I thought.
Tim did come back again, on the last day of the fair, and stayed long enough to explain sheepishly that he was kind of dating the brunette. He was sorry, but she’d be mad if she ever found out that he’d come to the county fair repeatedly just to see me. Still, he insisted, he’d had fun getting to know me and maybe we’d see each other again sometime in the future.
And that’s when the kiss happened. I might have been mad on a different day, or felt cheated by miserable, rotten luck. Instead, I reached up and pulled him in by the collar, planting a big, soft kiss right on his mouth. “No problem,” I told him. “I had fun, too.” For one last time I saw that delightful crooked smile, and then he walked away.
Sigh. After a brief but exciting spin on the romantic roller coaster, it was back to the kiddie rides for me.
I never did see Tim again. By now he’d be all grown up like me, possibly sporting a bald crown or a middle aged spread. Bifocals might cover his blue eyes. But in my mind, he’ll always be blond and 18, with a tight body and an irresistible uneven grin.
Not a bad way to be remembered, actually.