There are two distinct kinds of Summers while you’re growing up in the Planes of North America. The Summers you endure before you get a car and the Summers after you’re finally mobile.
I was told that, originally, Summer vacation was to allow the children of farming families to help with the harvest. Family was a concept so important that education was put on hold so they could join together and bring in a bounty of beans and corn. I believe, instead, that the tradition was instituted by early Darwinists who believed the Missouri gene pool needed a little culling.
I’m not complaining. In fact my feelings today are opposite of what they were when I was a kid. When I’m traveling or find myself in a shadowy situation I think back to the fact that I’ve survived hunting accidents (both bow and arrow and rifle), poisonings, tornadoes, binge drinking, Vacation Bible School and desert quality heat. I shake my fist at at whatever I find menacing me and say “Do your best, I’ve survived Summers in Missouri”.
The heat is the dirty secret of the region. If asked people on the street where the hottest spots in the country are the average American would mention the Mojave or Death Valley. These are deserts and they have an identity to uphold that’s based on their high temperatures. But if you throw in some dry grass, a few cows and some white trash children melted to a sidewalk anybody would easily mistake Death Valley for Missouri in August.
My mother wasn’t devout in many beliefs but by twelve years old I was beginning to think she was a Darwinist herself. Her two core Summer beliefs were that children should enjoy the fresh air during the day and that cool conditioned air, like R rated movies and alcohol, was for adults only.
The first few weeks weren’t too bad and we were actual hopeful. The relief at being out of school was still fresh and plans were made to build forts and tree houses. We would draw up plans start a club and keep people out of it. Making them jealous and possibly beg for inclusion. We would get tan!
These ideas faded with the inevitable heat. By eleven o’clock all shade was gone and the direct sunlight was at its hottest. This is when it became obvious that we had to start our pleas to get in the house.
Becky would start “Mom, MOOOMMM, Can we come in?” this was met with no response. This is when she would become a traitor and try again “Mom!.. can I come in?” She knew she was the favorite and was going to try to cash in on it.
“Mom, MOOOOOMMM” Bubba would try next. “I have to pee”
“Go in the woods” came the disembodied voice from somewhere behind the closed door and drawn curtains.
“I have to poop, too!” He would yell in return. This was the double edged tactic of needing facilities and getting him to a place where he couldn’t embarrass her in front of the neighbors.
If it bothered her there was no indication coming from the house.
During the school year I read a story about a family trapped in the desert. To survive they hid under the car and took sips from their limited water supply until night came. We had no water supply so I tried that angle when it was my turn to bang on the door.
“Mom, we need water or we could die out here!”. That would get her. Once she opened the door we could try to negotiate an entrance or at least feel a blast of cold air from inside her darkened ice fortress.
“Use the hose” She said from behind the door.
Exhausted from our failed attempts at negotiating our way back inside we would return to our makeshift shelters. Me under the picnic table, Bubba in the doghouse and, because she was the smallest, Becky would hide in the soft evergreen shrubs surrounding the front porch. The three of us praying for a breeze, waiting for night to fall and hoping to survive another day.
We always survived. The sun would continue it’s journey and send us some new shade and we could move around again without bursting into flame. Eventually the air conditioning was turned off, curtains and windows were opened and we were called inside for dinner. We would enter the screen door and press our faces against the walls to feel what was left of the cool air.
When dusk fell and cool breezes fell over the neighborhood we completely abandoned the house we were fighting to get into all day. The new fight was to stay out as long as we could. After dark the furnace blasted wasteland that nearly killed us was replaced by a sort of wonderland at night.
On some nights we would race outside with our bikes to play in the clouds of mosquito poison billowing out of the back of government trucks. If we got close enough to the origin of the fog we were cycling blind. Like a moving game of hide and seek with the added bonus of airborne pesticides.
Nighttime was also when other kids, the kids with parents who wanted them to survive until adulthood, came out to play. If we were all on speaking terms we played games like regular non-poisonous hide and seek. We also played a game that involved us sitting around one of the other kids, two fingers under the volunteer while we attempted to levitate him. It never worked even though, somehow, every one of us had a story about a time when it did work and the levitated kid floated away.
If the kids in the neighborhood didn’t get along then the games were replaced with pranks. We weren’t bad kids really but we did want to shake things up a bit. Our pranks involved things like taking all of the potted plants off of the Leverknight’s front porch and arranging them on the O’dell’s front porch.
Fishing boats would be moved to another part of a yard and dog houses turned over. If we really didn’t like you for any number of reasons, real or imagined, and we were feeling particularly brave we would use an old 409 bottle to spray water on your porch light making the bulb explode.
The best Summer night in history in mid July 1979. It started off with me convincing two of the neighbor boys my age to have a wrestling match in their underwear. I started by convincing them to play Super Heroes and mentioning that underwear look a lot like what Batman and Superman wear. That turned into World Super Hero Wrestling when a girl we didn’t know walked by. Which didn’t normally happen in a neighborhood with only fourteen houses.
“Hi, I’m Lisa”
She smiled and Time stopped.
She was amazing. She looked like the women from my stepdad’s dirty magazines but with clothes... and standing upright. Until now I thought the women in those magazines were from a different planet. I had certainly never seen anyone around town with curves like that. The women from Butter Buns and American Chic were alien creatures who liked long walks on the beach which somehow made it difficult to keep their legs together when reclined.
But I was wrong. Real people could have bodies like that. Lisa had a body like that! Her hair was black and reached to her waist. She could swirl it, flip and send waves down to the tips when she spoke.
She was nice. She was seventeen. She was a succubus in Sassoon Jeans. She was a Goddess that sprung fully formed from the limestone gravel of our road. She was sex.
The boys in their underwear, Dirk and Scott, couldn’t speak. She was just that hot, and they were in their underwear. I had on clothes so I was able to suggest a game of spin the bottle. Statistics dictated that with three boys, one girl and one bottle one of the boys was going to get kissed by another boy. I liked those odds.
Scott and Dirk put on their pants, we found a bottle and headed toward Lisa’s house. She wanted to play in her parents camper since the mosquitos were starting to bite here. She was too classy and sophisticated to play behind the poison truck and now she was paying the price.
In the camper we sat at the booth that made the dining table, me and Lisa on one side and the other boys opposite us. Being the girl we all agreed Lisa got to spin first. The bottle slowed to a stop and pointed at her. “I can’t believe I’m doing this” she laughed.
We couldn’t believe it either.
She spun again and this time when it stopped it was pointing at Dirk. She leaned over the table and gave him an elongated kiss right on the lips. It was at this point I thought we might be in over our heads but I kept it to myself.
It was Dirks turn to spin. The bottle opening pointed square at Lisa. Interesting. “Did he do that on purpose”, I asked myself. Can I do that on purpose? Bottle manipulation was a very useful skill to have.
Dirk and Lisa kissed again. This time kissed lasted a little longer and Dirk twisted his head like he was fastening a wing nut with his teeth.
Now it was Lisa’s turn. She reached for the bottle she wound up ... did she just look at me? The bottle spun because that was the name of the game it stopped pointing at me. Did she do that on purpose? I looked at the Dirk and Scott. They were looking at each other. They thought so.
I wasn’t scared. I had kissed people before. I looked at her, leaned forward, closed my eyes, puckered up and waited for her lips to touch mine. They did it was the single greatest moment of my life.
For about twelve seconds.
“You know what” Lisa said “You guys don’t know how to kiss”
What was she talking about. I already kissed a bunch of people and nobody ever complained. I didn’t know yet that people don’t complain about how you kiss to your face. They complain to their friends instead.
My heart was sinking as my ego shattered when she finished her statement. “So I’m going to teach you”.
The three of us were all glad we weren’t in our underwear at the prospect.
“First of all” she started the lesson and grabbed my face “relax your face. You pucker up like someone is going to punch you”. She shook my head a little “relax” and when I didn’t she shook my head again, “relax”.
“Now, turn your head a little but come in slow. Lips are firm but soft at the same time” She brought her finger up to my lips to test the firmness.” More firm, yes, like that”.
Her voice dropped then to a tone more lusty. More sultry. “when your lips touch rub them against each other a little. Use your tongue” . The boys across the table gulped as she leaned, slid her finger off my lips and brushed hers against mine. Next her tongue brushed against my lip and our mouths connected... then she stopped.
“Now when you’re kissing someone think like you’re an electric cord and you want to put all that electricity through the other persons body all they way down to their feet.”
She leaned back in and pressed her lips to mind and I swear I could feel it. That kiss started at my mouth and went all the way to my toes. My kneecaps started to overheat before she finally pulled away. After a handful of minutes my eyes stopped looking up into my skull and I was able to focus on my instructor.
“How old are you guys anyway” she asked.
Scott was feeling cheated since he hadn’t had a chance to kiss anyone yet so jumped at the chance to tell her and maybe get a favor. “I’m eleven and they’re thirteen”.
Her smiled faded. and I saw the chances of getting another kiss going down with the edges of her mouth. “You guys are too young! You have to go” I was still in a daze and just followed the other two boys out of the camper and in the general direction of our homes.
Lisa graduated High School the following year and moved away. Scott and Dirk told the story about that night in the camper and it wasn’t long before a simple kiss with one of them, over a table became a full on orgy involving both of them. Since I was the only person present who wasn’t going to lie about what really happened I was written out of the story early on.
As far as I could tell they were lucky they didn’t get the full brunt of that kiss. A lesser man, and I considered them lesser men, would have crumbled under the impact and spent a lifetime in her thrall. Hopeful and desperate to recreate the moment. Hell, just watching her kiss me haunted them for a good five years.
Not to say I walked home that night totally unchanged. I learned that night how powerful a really good kiss could be. I learned that what is in your mind during a kiss someone can be conveyed through you and all the way to their toes.
I also learned I was one hundred percent gay. While Scott and Dirk thought of nothing but getting back with Lisa all I could think of was taking my new found skills out on the road for a test drive.
I remain dedicated to the memory of Lisa and my first real kiss. Every time I get a “that was amazing” I say a little “thank you” and hope that, wherever she is, she’s happy and making out with someone worthy of her.