Wednesday, September 03, 2003

If this story has to start somewhere, then it starts the night before, in Creative Writing class, when a sophomore who is way too pretentiously hard on everybody else's stuff hands in a derivative bit of sci-fi fluff to be workshopped, and being the senior I am, recovering sci-fi fan and Great Writer To Be, I tell him exactly what I think about it.

But tonight it's Friday and there's a party at the Cat House, and it turns out to be That Kind of Party, the kind of party the freshman will tell stories about when they're seniors and "they don't have parties like they used to". Buzz was on the couch in the middle room, between the beer and the bathroom, asking everybody who walks by if they've "paid their taxes" and if they say "no" or "huh?" or anything other than "yes", Buzz grabs their ass, male and female alike, and gives it a good, two-handed squeeze. Well, a little crew of fratboys couldn't make it past the cool police on the front porch, so they snuck in the back, and when they got to Buzz, they weren't too cool with this pretty hippy boy squeezing their asses. Their necks got short, and shoulders went back, and they gave their fratboy growl of "What the fuck is your problem?" before Randy unfolded himself from the couch. Now Randy was six foot something with a 70s porn star mustache and shoulders that came around the corner well before the rest of him. Randy had very convincingly played a blood-soaked hoplite in the Bacchae just the month before, and was drinking scotch while the rest of us sipped beer, so when Randy unfolded himself and said, "I think you boys are at the wrong party" the fratboys got suddenly solicitous and were full of "sorry"s and "sir"s as they backed out the door they'd come in, so when I tell you it was that kind of party, well, that's the kind of party it was.

There was of course a line for the bathroom, and while I didn't need to go, there were some awful cute girls in the line, and I was freshly dumped, so I was hanging around. I was talking to one girl in particular, a redhead I didn't particularly know, but had most particularly noticed around campus and in the hippie crowd I called home, when up bounced Marty. Marty was a big man, and not given to bouncing, but on this particular night he was bouncing, which may have been related to the fact that he was not only wearing lipstick, he was brandishing it. Up he bounced to the girl, Melissa was her name if you're curious, and said, "You need lipstick!" and raised it like a weapon. She was clearly into the freshfaced thing, and anyway it wasn't her color, so she raised her hands, but Marty said, "Hold her, Mike!" and I did. I pinned her arms down, and Marty reddened her lips and then bounced off to redden the lips of another.

I was laughing, but she punched my arm (not hard, but not too soft, either). "Why did you do that?" she asked, and raised a hand to feel her lips, while looking around for a mirror. "Shit!" She looked at the line for the bathroom, which wasn't moving and was at least ten deep, and said, again, "Shit!"

"C'mon," I said, "There's a bathroom upstairs." I took her hand to help her step over the rope keeping the upstairs blocked off. Patrick, one of the dwellers of the house, was tending bar nearby and cocked an eyebrow in our general direction. "Emergency," I shrugged, and he nodded, knowing, as my friends do, that I'm the trustworthy sort.

She had the opportunity to let go of my hand as we went up, but she didn't, which was probably good, as we were in what another house might call the attic, and it was dark, with walls that slanted in odd places. I led her to the bathroom and found the light, then waited while she washed off the garish color that Marty had rather clumsily applied. She turned off the light, and we headed back down to the party. She took my hand in the dark.

At the head of the stairs, she stopped, and leaned against the wall. I leaned in, and she leaned a bit forward, our lips closing the rest of the gap. It was a short kiss, more soft and gentle, than hard and passionate, and it was the first kiss I'd had since getting dumped. I smiled and stepped back, and she slipped under my arm and down the steps.

And that was it. I saw her once or twice more at the party, just a smile across the room, then she was gone. That night I went for a walk across campus to clear my head before heading home, and saw her standing under a streetlight with the boy whose story I'd savaged the night before. She was half turned away from him, and his body language was a portrait of The Plaintive Boyfriend. While I couldn't quite regret the kiss, I'd been in his shoes, and was suddenly glad that it was just what it was, and nothing more.

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