Introspection

I haven’t been writing at all. Truth is, my life is good and work is good and all things seem to be falling in place…except the writing. I always have this guilty feeling about not putting words on paper. I start to write a story, then I give up.

I have a teenage son, and it drives me nuts when he gives up or is not motivated. But, yet, here I am. Failing to write for the umpteenth time in my life. Living the life of the tortured aspiring writer. Can I call myself a writer if I’m not writing?

It’s Christmas time, and we have done everything Christmasy. We have made gingerbread cookies (today), seen Santa, wrapped presents, bought presents, gone to Christmas parties. We’ve given to others (money-wise, present-wise, service-wise, and through my job). Life is good.

Why is it when life is good the words are hard to flow? Today, I felt a little limerence or nostalgia for the past. I went into the garage, and I opened up a cabinet looking for the cookie tins. I thought I’d look in the boxes of my writing, letters from people-from-the-past, all the things from college. But then I thought, when I do that it usually makes me sad. Or maybe sad is not the right word, wistful, maybe? Who knows what word I’m looking for.

I’m a keeper of things, much to my mom and my husband’s chagrin. I have my journals from childhood. They read like this: It’s Wednesday. I played with Meredith. Tonight for dinner we are having grilled chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans. Oh, and they are all addressed to Jon, because I named my journal after NKOTB Jon. To be 12 again.

Then my high school journals are all about my first boyfriend J and my second boyfriend, also a J. And how I don’t know what to do. And how I’m failing geometry, but too afraid to tell my parents. And about feeling lonely despite being surrounded by people. The life of a teenager.

And in college, there’s this sense of not knowing what to do next. Of being swept up by the moment, and so idealistic, and thinking I can do anything, but HOW? And again, the obsession with a boy, P. I stopped journaling after I met Hubby. Put down the pen and paper and delved into my life. I stopped writing in full for awhile, until my 30s, after kids were born, and I had a mini-breakdown, and things started to get to normal again. Then I realized writing is an outlet. Writing is a source of release of all the stresses, all the anxiety, all the sadness, all the happiness, and all the success rolled from one day into the other and out the ink of the pen (or the keys of the keyboard, as it were).

I look back on my journals and think about how young and naive I was. I think about all the time I wasted being obsessed over people who were no longer interested in me. Such wasted moments when I could have been living in the moment. And why? Who knows. I look at my past, and I know I felt a deep sense to belong. A lot of my life I felt out of place, not in sync with the people around me. Wanting too little or wanting too much. Being in the wrong political group. Being too loud. Or being too silent. Feeling like people around me didn’t have the same big questions I had about life, philosophy, religion. And I know everyone feels this way sometimes. I know as human beings we have this deep need to feel a part of a group, and to be part of something bigger, and I know that’s okay. And finally, at this stage of my life, I’m starting to feel comfortable with me again. Comfortable in my own skin.

And thanks to some friends in a baby group I’ve been part of for 15 years, maybe I now feel like it’s time to start journaling again. Sometimes seeking the deeper inner parts of yourself can be refreshing and not debilitating.

It’s time to pick up the pen again.

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Dog Parks, Writing, and Kavanaugh

I met a dog named Dog today. I took Son Number Two to the dog park. Dog was a sweet old dog. His owner said she’d gotten to the age where she just names her dogs “Dog” and her cats “Cat.” I liked it. It reminded me of Because of Winn Dixie for some reason.

Son Number Two always gets hurt when we go to Shakespeare. Shakespeare is a park that has a Fine Arts Museum and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, a outdoor amphitheater, a dog park, and lots of green space.

But for Son Number Two the following things have happened at Shakespeare:

  • Fell and broke his wrist
  • Fell and his head hit a hard stone, causing a small bullet-sized wound on his head. The wound went all the way to his skull
  • And today–got bitten by a dog at the dog park. I didn’t lose my shit. My dog, Jazz, has nipped a kid before. She can be a bad dog. This dog had just bit another kid though, and then went after Son Number Two. And he did the grab and started to try to shake. I don’t know what set him off. Son Number Two and I were on the way out of the park.

He is okay. He is currently at movies with his dad and brother. They’re seeing something I don’t want to see so I’m having alone time.

My writing is non-existent. My sister wants me to write about my alopecia for The Moth. I also need to be writing and submitting, but I’ve been so busy. Plus, I have thank you letters for work to write, and PTA minutes to write. So much to do.

I wanted to comment on the Kavanaugh proceedings when they were going on, but didn’t have the heart to, especially with the way things went. I am worried for women. I am worried for America. I am watching The Handmaid’s Tale and it suddenly doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibilities that women’s rights could be erased. I believe women when they say they’ve been assaulted. False accusations are rare. But in the U.S. we still have this blame the victim mentality. And then Kavanaugh played the victim. I don’t want to get political, BUT I don’t think respecting women and listening to them is a political issues. I think we need to learn how to teach our young boys to be gentlemen and that sexual assault is bad. We need to change the narrative.

Signing out–hope to write more. I plan on posting some stories soon, you know, once I start writing them again.

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I Held Your Heart Once

Here’s a short story (748 words) I wrote for Chuck Wendig’s weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. Let me know what you think about it in the comments below:

I Held Your Heart Once

“I told you this was a bad idea!” he shouted.

Yeah, as if the entire idea had been mine. We sat in the house on the gray floor, my fingers almost completely numb. I wanted to shove a knife under his ribs. I plastered a faux smile on my face.

“You start the fire then.”

“Fine,” he said, grabbing the stick and the stone from me.

I studied El’s face as the light in the windows began to recede and the bitter wind howled. His cheeks were gaunt. When we’d left they’d been full of meat. Now, we both looked like shadow people; skinnier than we ever should have been. The lines of dirt on his cheekbones would have made him look like a football player if he were bigger. But now they accentuated the emaciated look of his face.

I tried to blow the blue out of my fingers.

El shouted at the stick as if it had ears.

I went to the door.

“What the fuck are you going to do, Mare?”

“Going somewhere else. I mean we’ll freeze to death in here.”

“It’s safe and it’s warm.”

“It’s not warm.”

“It’s warmer than out there.”

I looked out the window. The ferocious snow fell barricading us into this desolate place. We were stuck, and it was my bad idea that had brought us up here. I thought there’d be food, maybe canned goods. But when we opened the door a vacuous wasteland of dust greeted us. The back window had a crack letting in a constant stream of cold air and snow. No wood, except for wet, snow-bound logs sitting on the crumbling front porch. I could feel El’s hostility aimed at me like an arrow.

“I mean who the fuck goes up the mountain. We should have been going down.”

My heart felt like a worn stone in my chest. I stood by the door, not opening it, with my back to him. He struck the rock against the stick. Heat remained aloof. There was friction in the air but not enough to start a fire.

“My hands are numb,” I said. I turned toward him.

He put the rock and stick down and looked at me. I could see his old face hidden in his new one. The old face I’d fallen in love with. His eyes which had looked cold softened and his face crinkled into a smile. His smile warmed me up, and I felt the once familiar spark. The one that had been missing for awhile now, the one that reminded me that I’d held his heart once.

“Come here.”

I stood still.

He stood up and walked toward me, measured steps through the dust of the room. He pulled my shirt off before I could say no. His hands on my breast warmed me up. Body heat, the natural generator. He took off his shirt and grabbed my hands. He warmed them with his, rubbing them together like the stick and the stone. He placed my hands on his chest.

He slid down my pants then pulled down his. I shivered, and he wrapped his arms around me. We were like two unlit pieces of coal trying to catch an elusive spark. I felt him enter me and shivered again. We had not made love in ages.

“I don’t have a condom.”

“It’s okay.” It wasn’t.

Our bodies moved together filling the cabin with warmth. I imagined soft lights. I imagined a rope bed with a soft mattress, blankets covering us. I imagined the smell of chicken cooking in the oven. I imagined our children.

When I blinked, I felt his hip bone against my inner thigh. I’d never felt his hip bone before. The barrenness of the cabin stole my fantasy. He moaned and I squeezed my arms around him trying to find the heat in what should have been passion. I didn’t want the fantasy of what we once had to end. But he pushed hard, climaxed, and rolled off of me. The frigid air pierced my sweat-smothered skin. El sat with his back to me and took up the stone and stick again.

I had been wrong to come here. He’d held my heart once but it has since shattered like an icicle.

A sudden spark rose from the stick. El lit the wood then turned to look at me with fire in his eyes.

The smoke was blue and grey and smelled like a promise.

Snow Mountain

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Rejection

 

I received my rejection from the Master’s Review yesterday. SIGH. 

Curses, rejected again!

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Here it is in all its glory:

Dear Lauren, 

Thank you for sending us “I Held Your Heart Once” for consideration in our Flash Fiction Contest. We really enjoyed reading your writing, and are flattered you chose to submit to us. This is one of our most popular contests, and we thank you for your patience while we read through all of the submissions. 

I am sorry to say that your submission was not selected for publication. It is clear that you are a very talented writer, and your piece stood out from the pack. Unfortunately, we had to decline some excellent stories, but we are grateful for the chance to read such high quality work. 

We wish you the best of luck with your writing and look forward to bringing you more wonderful stories. Part of our aim is to support great work from new writers and we consider every story we read an effort toward that goal. We couldn’t do this without you. We hope to read more of your fiction in the future. 

Thank you again, 
The Masters Review Team


In case you’re interested in reading my rejected piece, I’ve republished to this blog: https://laurengreenewrites.com/2018/09/06/i-held-your-heart-once/

What a nice rejection. I mean, honestly. I’m a very talented writer. I know this. I just can’t seem to get actually published. The thing about writing is that there’s constant rejection. A rejection letter can send you for a loop. I knew that story was good. It just wasn’t what the Master’s Review was looking for. That’s their loss.

So how do you deal with the rejection of not getting published? Maybe you take a drink. Or go for a run. Then you start writing again. Or you send out that piece that maybe didn’t work for the Master’s Review to someone else and wait for the next rejection letter to roll in…or if you’re really lucky, an acceptance.

I like to think about how J.K. Rowling was rejected a billion times before she became a published writer. I also like to think about how much I enjoy writing and sharing it with others. And about how sometimes my writing is just for me. That I need to write to be fulfilled, and if I’m never officially published then I’m never officially published.

Roll with it, baby.

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Summer Break

Everyone needs a break, including, apparently, this author. I’ve been quite busy.

First, I went here:

Disney 1

The famous author and her husband.

I’m sure you can figure out where that picture is from. My husband and I spent our 15th Anniversary chasing kids around Disney. We also were able to enjoy it with my sister-in-law, her two kids, and my mother-in-law. Fun times! I’m a big goof, and I LOVE Disney. It is one of my most favorite places. Kids and adults have fun there. I also did it right, and we didn’t start going to Disney until my youngest daughter turned five. The food. The rides. I think it’s all great. If you haven’t been on the new Pandora ride, you need to drop everything, book a trip and go down. It was hands down my favorite. And walking through the line, the gardens were absolutely beautiful:

Disney 2

Then I came home, and I started concentrating on my short story. Okay, I’ve written about two sentences on it. I really started concentrating on eating better, running, and avoiding writing again. But, I decided I needed to start writing again today. I’d like to enter my short story into the Masters Review contest, but that’s due July 31st, and I’m not sure if I will have it finished and edited by then. I entered their flash contest, but winners will not be announced until September. The waiting game–it’s real, y’all.

I keep thinking there will be a time in life in which I will be able to just write. Or, you know, fit it into my schedule. I do a lot of procrastinating. I tend to have to set mini-goals or sprint to write. Once I start sprinting, I usually get on a roll and can keep going. So my goal this week is to sprint once a day and finish my short story by next Wednesday. If I can do that, I may possibly have enough time to edit and submit it.

I hope to continue sharing some of my short pieces with you all, and I plan on getting back to posting about once a week.

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Journey of Words

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Yes, I’m a writer. I know, I know–I haven’t been writing as much. For awhile, I wasn’t writing at all. I’ve been thinking about ancient history a lot this week. You know, memories down the lane. I’ve been doing some soul-searching, but not in a nostalgic sad kind of way. More in a way that’s helping me come to terms with some of my decisions about the past. And of course, some of this is ending up in my writing, because you know that’s what writers do. For some reason, these thoughts and the books I’ve been reading: The Last Time We Met, Less, The Princess Diarist, heck even Born a Crime, made me think I needed to set my book in Buenos Aires.

And it’s strange. I feel like I’m traveling there again in my mind. I went to Buenos Aires in 1999. I had just turned 20. This was almost 20 years ago (I’m getting old, peeps). Their currency was still tied to the dollar. Everything was super expensive. I had a astrophysicist cabbie who couldn’t get a job because unemployment was through the roof. I walked by a Jewish synagogue frequently that had armed guards, because there’s so much antisemitism in Buenos Aires they were afraid the synagogue would be bombed. I saw a guy on a bike get hit by a car, and then the driver get out and yell at him in Spanish for being in the way, while the pedestrian writhed in pain on the sidewalk by my feet. My friend P’s host family called their Doberman Pincher gay, because he was such a nice dog (I wasn’t appalled by their use of this word as derogatory then, as I surely would be now). He would sit on your lap whenever you came into the apartment, because he thought he was a lap dog. I would watch game shows and Spanish soap operas with English subtitles to learn more Spanish with my “sisters” Sol and Paz (the daughters of my host mother).

I saw a country in love with Evita Peron still. A country suffering but beautiful. The colors of La Boca. The market square. The pigeons. Luna Park and Jamiroquai. The mothers of the disaparecidos protesting in the street, still looking for their loved ones. A country where you could sit in the park and have yerba mate then risk your life at the hands of a cab driver (why do they make lanes anyway)? I saw how much family meant to Argentineans. Young women stayed home until they married. Even my crazy host family had their extended family over once a week. They laughed, drank, ate, and loved. A city that awoke no earlier than 10 and when to bed no earlier than midnight!

I think, now, experiences like these are wasted on the young. How I love to travel. How I wish to go back to Buenos Aires and see how it’s changed. Is there still a little cafe/bar on the corner of Manual Ugarte and Cabildo where I sat and talked to a boy I’d later fall hopelessly (emphasis on the hopeless) in love with until 2 AM? Where I sat with friends and tipped the waiters so big they looked forward to our arrival every evening? Is that place still there? What about the laundromat that would pick up and wash my clothes, fold them, and return them to me? I swore they were shrinking my clothes, but I was really just gaining about 30 pounds on empanadas, alfajores, and full fat milk.

Someone asked me over the weekend what type of books I wrote, and I didn’t know what to say. None. Half-finished books? Books about love and loss and unrequited love and abuse and family and women’s fiction and southern literature and maybe literary fiction. We love to categorize everything, but I feel like I get into my writing the most when I just do it without thinking about what it actually is. When is springs forth from some burning internal question I’m trying to answer.

Writing is a lot like traveling to me. I can go back to Buenos Aires. I can picture myself there. Transporting my characters to worlds I’ve been but also to places I’ve never been. An exercise in empathy. A way to answer unanswerable questions or at least get closer to explaining them to myself. But mostly just cathartic. A journey to a better understanding of the human existence, this universe we call home.

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Rules Are Made to Be Broken

I have a thirteen year old. I like to award him his privacy, and I rarely discuss my children on this blog. He missed an assignment in his Honors English class on haikus. I told my husband, and he said in honor of this day, we should only speak in haikus.

I sent him a haiku (three lines), and he replied back in haiku, of course:

The proper format
Haiku five seven five
Sorry about head

I have a headache today. But I must keep working through it.

Isn’t his haiku 5/6/5? The (1) proper (2) format (2) = 5. Haiku (2) five (1) seven (2) five (1) = 6. Sorry (2) about (2) head (1) = 5. I digress…

I find it funny Hubby is schooling me on correct haiku format. He gets irritated when I correct his grammar. How many times have I had to tell him which of these little words to use: you’re, your, their, there, and they’re?  I had to look up haikus, because, God forbid he be right.And he was right. Except that in the 17th Century, many poets broke away from the 5/7/5 form and just made a haiku a three lined poem. That’s because rules are made to be broken. But my husband likes it old school apparently. Not me. My motto has always been rules were made to be broken, or at least bent. I’m sure this made me a difficult teenager.

In honor of Hubby, I’ve written a couple of haikus that follow the 5/7/5 rule and a few that don’t. Enjoy. And hopefully Son Number One will complete his work, and I won’t have to give him a consequence.

Rustling wind moves leaves. (5)
On this clear first day of Spring, (7)
cold air tells the lie. (5)

Baby feet have grown (5)
too fast. Forgotten toys put (7)
away for electronics. (7)

Sweet sorrow of love (5)
that cannot be. Replaced by (7)
longing for the past. (5)

Sweat pours down my face. (5)
Running off the blueberry donut. (8)
The price of sugar. (5)

Apparently I’m not great at these. Maybe some of you masters of haiku can put a few in the comments. I plan to write a flash fiction piece for Chuck Wendig’s blog at some point this week. I’ve been working on a novel (different from my almost completed piece), but mostly I’ve been spending time with family lately.

Don’t forget to leave
a comment below, so I
know you are reading.

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The Rambler

Welcome back. Oh wait, I mean, you’ve been here so I am really just welcoming myself back. Life happened, and I realized this AM I had not blogged in a month. The strange thing is, I’ve been writing–well, at least a little bit. I have been working on my novel again. Mainly, I need to finish and then edit. This is what I’m very bad at doing. Editing seems like the dregs to me, and where is the time? It takes me a good three hours to be invested in editing my work, and there are no three-hour time slots open any where in my life.

But life is good, mostly. Good but stressful. I’ve made some great friends lately, and I’ve put myself out there. This is good, because I was having a near constant desire to sit in the blue easy chair, drink a Truly or two or three, and watch Netflix. I find leaving the house is the hardest before you actually do it. Like, it takes a lot of motivation to get off my butt and actually go out and be with people, but once I do it I love it.

I wanted to write about the Parkland shooting, because it’s never too soon to talk about common sense gun control. Last week, I blogged about it in my head. But then I thought, this is never going to change anything. My goal is to become involved in Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. This, I know, is the right thing to do. I have three kids, and I don’t want their right to life to be trumped by someone else’s right to own an AR-15. I know not everyone agrees with me, but I think the high school students speaking up for themselves, staging walk-outs and protests, is truly amazing. Folks, this is how democracy works.

And mental health? Why can’t it be both? I want our country to take mental health issues more seriously. It’s hard to get adequate care in this country. But so many people need it. I can’t tell you how much I’ve paid out of pocket to see therapists in my lifetime. And you know what–it helped me! And there’s nothing shameful about that. Get rid of the stigma surrounding mental health. That would be a nice place to start. Our boys (because those are usually the perpetrators of these crimes) need to learn self-control and self-regulation. I don’t think every violent crime is done by someone with mental health problems. I think ANGER is a huge issue in our society. Anger leads to domestic violence situations, mass shootings, as well as homicides. I think our boys have a lot of anger because they’ve been taught their whole lives to swallow their feelings. Well, that’s not doing anyone any good. Anger management needed, yes! Therapy or someone to talk to needed, yes. Let’s change society for the better. What’s wrong with doing that?

I promise, I’ll blog more. I have finished Waking Up White and need to blog about some of the ideas from reading and pondering over that book. I also am planning on writing a flash fiction piece and getting it posted. Here’s to more words more often.

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What is Writing Without Readers?

I’ve been having a mini-crisis regarding my writing. And yes, this post is mostly to whine about the fact that I don’t have an audience. And I know some of that is my fault–probably most of it–I’m good at taking blame.

Sometimes I go back and look at old blog posts and flash fiction stories that seemed to get a lot of response and I wonder what appealed to the reader in this story? How can I recreate it? What do I do to get a bigger audience? Oh how wonderful it would be if the life of the writer was just to write.

When I was a kid I wrote because I loved it. Then I had a crisis of sorts, when I realized writing couldn’t pave my way to material success. I stopped writing altogether for a long time. But I knew something was missing. When I started writing again, I felt truly alive. But when I write and no one reads it’s like some sick desperation surges up inside of me. Like when you post something on Facebook hoping for 100 likes and only get 2. And it makes me wonder, do I write for attention? Is writing a form of self vindication for me? Am I really that self-absorbed that I expect people to be interested in the inner thoughts of my brain that come out in the form of stories? Or am I writing to share wisdom? Am I writing to share a story?

I’m reminded of John Kennedy Toole who killed himself when his novel A Confederacy of Dunces kept being rejected. Posthumously his book became published, and he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. How did he feel when he was constantly rejected? He knew he had a great piece of literature, but without an audience he felt worthless. Why do people only care about what authors write after they’ve died?

This industry is the suck. It’s all for the people living in New York who know someone or another or who can get in with an agent somehow. Or who hit the jackpot somehow getting pulled out of the heap. But then even when they hit the jackpot, they have to continue to write, sometimes in the same genre even if they don’t want to. But at least they had this one moment of wonder where someone saw something in their writing and made it happen for them. We can’t all be Stephen King or James Patterson.

There are so many parts of writing I find exhausting. Mostly they have nothing to do with the actual writing part. Marketing tops the list. And we all know marketing is a huge part of writing these days. Without it you’d be lucky to sell a book (if you ever finish one again). I think writers work harder than so many people for such little payout. I mean, look at the freelancing gigs available–$15 for an article? Who can make a working wage off of that? When did we decide writing was a side job and novels could be read for free or $1.99 on Kindle. You can check mine out here by the way. I get about $0.30 off each sale. And I know, I should have had it professionally edited. Sorry for the typos. If I want to get serious about this writing thing, I should probably pull that off Amazon and cut my losses. But I’m not that kind of person. Plus, there’s a lot worse crap out on Amazon that sells anyway. More effort does equal a better chance of success. I should have realized that back in 2015, but I’ve had three years and I’m still learning from my mistakes.

So here we go again. In order to be a successful writer you have to have wealth or money. The ability to have your novel professionally edited, then you have to jackpot land an agent, and hopefully that agent is with the Big Five (do 5 even actually exist anymore) and not a hybrid company that will close down and your book will disappear from existence. And then, even if you do get picked up by the Big Five you still have to market the hell out of your piece by driving your friends and family nuts on social media. Posting blog posts that you try to make look original and creative when really you’re just pulling at straws to get a few words down so you’ve met your quota for the month. And then you pray like heck your book sells so you can go through the creation and the pain all over again. This is, of course, after your book has been rejected approximately 1,753,289 times.

Or you go the self-pub route and make $0.30 off each book. There is a breakeven point. It’s somewhere close to Pluto.

Maybe it would be different if I didn’t have a day job or if I felt like people really wanted to read what I write. Or if I felt like anyone actually wanted to read at all anyway. I mean, I have a few little people in my household and they’re only enamored with technology. My kids only read for school. When did people cease to find reading fun, relaxing, entertaining?

And even fewer people are interested in literary fiction these days and then dark literary fiction to top it off. I mean, I’d rather write about vampires and step-brother lust too, but that’s just not what comes out of me when I squeeze my creative juices. For some reason I have no control over what I actually write. It’s like it travels through my brain and onto the paper, and sometimes I say, “Shit, that’s actually good,” and sometimes I say, “Crap. this is just crap.” And it’s usually the crap that people want to read–Lord knows why.

Who the hell knows? I’d like to have more readers, but I guess I’ll just keep writing for my audience of one. Because despite all the heartache involved with writing, I love it. And I wouldn’t be who I am if I wasn’t a writer.

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Seven Minutes in Heaven

So today, I decided to write something a little lighthearted. There has been a lot of bad news lately, and it takes a toll on me sometimes. I thought this morning, I’d get on here and blog about something serious. But this story of innocence came to mind, and I liked where it went. Sometimes we all need a break from the seriousness of life. Enjoy.  

The bottle spun on the wooden table. My stomach lurched as it came to a stop on Bennett. I’d never kissed a boy before, and here in this dark basement room, the other kids jeered and cheered.

“KISS HER!” they shouted.

“Holly and Bennett sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G–” Bracey Stacy said.

“Shut-up Stacy,” Bennett said.

He leaned over the table and placed his lips on mine. I hands felt sweaty and my heartbeat thundered in my ears.

“Tongue, do it,” Bracey Stacy said.

His lips felt warm, and I opened my mouth just a smidge. His tongue darted in, and it felt wet and slimy like one of those goldfish you win at the fair. I held my eyes shut as his tongue explored my mouth.  I ventured into his mouth with my tongue, feeling his molars, and tasting his breath. It felt like we kissed forever. And then I moaned, and the whole room burst out in laughter. My eyes flew open, and I could see every pore and pimple on Bennett’s face.

“Damn, get a room guys,” Mitch said as Bennett pulled away.

I blinked, and put my hands on my lap, squeezing them together until my pale skin turned bright pink as I sat back in my seat.

Bennett’s blue eyes stared at me from across the table, and he gave me a half-grin.

“Okay, next,” Bracey Stacy said.

Silence descended as the bottle spun again. Bracey Stacy looked hopeful, but the bottle never landed on her. It landed on Bennett and me three more times.

“We should do Seven Minutes in Heaven,” Bennett said after the last spin.

Ridiculously, images of angels and gospel music filled my naïve thirteen-year-old mind. I could almost see the pulpit and Father Roy up there preaching to the ladies in their Sunday best.

“Okay,” I said.

He stood up and walked over to me. I stared up at him in wild adolescent wonder. This good-looking, blonde, 5’7”, fourteen-year-old liked little old me. He placed his hand in mine. Skin-on-skin, I could feel the calluses decorating the palms of his hand. My hands felt sweaty and I worried he would pull away. But he held on tight, and he led me to the closet. I looked back at the kids gathered around the table staring at us with looks of astonishment as we headed into uncharted territory.

Mitch and the other boys stood up and set the timer on the clock radio.

“Turn on the T.V.,” Bennett said.

“Why? You don’t want us to hear you go smoochy-smoochy?”  Mitch asked with a laugh.

Five minutes ago I hadn’t even kissed a boy.

The closet smelled of mothballs and sweaty old tennis shoes. I pushed toward the back as Bennett pulled the door close. Total darkness descended upon us.

“What are we doing in here?” I whispered.

“Where are you?”

“In the coats—like Narnia.”

“We only have seven minutes.”

I felt his hand on my waist, and he pulled me close to him. I could feel his breath on my cheeks and see the white of his eyes. I wasn’t sure I’d ever been this close to anyone before. I could see the self-assured smirk on his face. And then his mouth was on mine, salty but sweet. Our tongues explored each other’s mouths. Bennett’s hand gripped my shirt, and his fingernails dug a little into my tender skin. He pulled away for a second.

“Can I touch you here?” he asked. But I couldn’t see what he referred to and his hands were on my chest before I knew it.

“Yes,” I said—an affirmation or an afterthought–I wasn’t sure which.

“Have you done this before?” I asked.

The dark seemed to be crowding in on us. Hadn’t it been seven minutes? It felt more like twenty.

“Never. I like you, Holls,” he said.

His hand felt my cheek. My heart thumped in my chest. I could push my way around him and leave the closet. But still, I liked the attention. I liked him. And I had agreed to go in there with him. I felt electricity between us and a stirring inside I’d never felt before.

“Is this what it feels like?” I asked.

“What?” His face was so close to mine, I could see his teeth and they seemed to glow white in the dark small space.

“Heaven?”

“I hope so,” Bennett said. “Now where were we?”

************


So when was your first kiss? How old were you?

I’ll share–I was thirteen and at Destin with some friends. I kissed a guy in his car, so he was much older. I don’t even remember his name. My first important kiss was with my high school boyfriend, when I was 16. And probably the most memorable one.

 

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