It was freshman year at AHS. I had my first kiss at the beginning of the year -- Simon Moore, on the Downtown Mall at Fridays After Five. And then I'd had my heart broken for the first time, when Simon dumped me a few weeks later. But Simon gave me a confidence I hadn't had before -- that guys could like me and I could like them back and we could admit that to each other and then I could even have a boyfriend! So I mourned Simon, but I turned my attention to Alex Gomaa, a junior boy I knew nothing about, except that he had beautiful long blond hair, and a sister in my grade. I became obsessed with Alex, learned his schedule and made sure to walk routes through the school that were most likely to put me in his vicinity. I was a 14-year-old girl.
Midway through the year, my friend Rebecca, whom we all called Phred that year, started going out with Matt Binder. Matt was a junior boy from her Civil Air Patrol group. Because Phred and I were joined at the hip, I started hanging out with Matt's friends, mostly other junior boys and their girlfriends. They were somewhere on the teenage clique spectrum between the skaters and the goths. Mostly outcasts, but large enough in number that you couldn't call them unpopular. Just very differently popular. I got to know some of them a little bit, but I was mostly shy, being a freshman who was just hanging around because of this other freshman girl. I didn't feel like I was really wanted there. I listened and laughed and tried to be polite and behave however would keep them from telling me to fuck off. They were all nice, though, and no one ever came close to telling me to fuck off...that I know of.
Soon I noticed that one of the guys from this group, Rafal, had the same lunch period as me (we were divided into three different lunch periods), and that he sat at a table with Alex. I decided this was my in. But, me being a freshman girl, it wasn't as simple as talking to him to talk to Alex. I had to talk to Phred to talk to her boyfriend to talk to Rafal to talk to Alex. Duh. Long story short, that freaked Alex out more than flattered him, and nothing ever came of me and him. But now everyone knew I was obsessed with Alex.
AOL was in its infancy then. I had something like a 14,400bps dial-up modem that year (maaaaybe it was up to 56K, actually? seemed super fast at the time!), and I spent a lot of time logged on, IMing with my friends and waiting two hours for different Hanson websites to load their latest pictures. One day I got an IM from a screen name I didn't recognize. He was Clone99 and he knew who I was, but his profile didn't have any identifying information. He told me he went to my high school and was a junior there. Ever optimistic, I hoped I was talking to Alex. We chatted for a long time. He said I knew who he was, but wouldn't reveal. It was a fun game. Whoever I was talking to, I liked him. I asked him what his name started with, and he wouldn't tell me, but he did say "Not A, sorry." That was a giveaway that it was someone who at least knew about my crush on Alex. I decided the most likely suspect was Rafal, since he was the one I'd indirectly asked to be my gobetween. Except I had no idea how to spell Rafal, and I guessed "Rufaul?" So he said no. I really didn't have any other guesses, but we kept talking for a while and I was really interested. I can't remember if this unfolded over the course of one conversation or if it was several days, weeks, whatever...I'm really not sure...because I know I started hanging out with this crowd around Halloween (Phred had hosted a Halloween party and we were all there), but Rafal and I didn't start going out until April. (The 9th, to be exact.) Phred and Matt had broken up by then, so I don't think I was even hanging around the group anymore at that point. But anyway I think the IMing started very shortly before we started going out. I can't remember if he revealed his name first or asked me out first, but we agreed on a Wednesday that we'd go out that Friday. He would come and pick me up and I'd choose where we would go. I was so excited and nervous. I remember when he revealed his name to me, it was full of suspense. We were saying goodnight over IM, and he said
And my name is...
And when I saw the name, I remember the exact feeling. My heart fluttered and I got butterflies all over. I had wanted it to be him ever since I'd been informed that it most definitely was not Alex. As soon as he confirmed who he was, Alex was ancient history.
I sort of think all of this IMing and like insta-falling for him happened in one night, on that Wednesday. But it's possible that Clone99 strung me along for a long time before revealing himself. In any case I remember that it was Wednesday because our date was going to be Friday and we had two days of school between agreeing to go out and the actual day...and on Thursday at school, I went to find Rafal, and I hugged him, and everyone in the group made teasing "aww" noises at us. And that was April 9, the day that we marked as our anniversary.
Waiting for Rafal to pick me up, the clock moved so slowly. I don't remember what I wore -- I'm not sure I was enough of a teenager to care yet at that point -- but I do remember deciding to water the plants in the garage in the few minutes before he was supposed to arrive, so I'd be outside when he pulled in and there wouldn't be an awkward doorbell moment with my parents, or with me rushing to the door too quickly or something. But I remember having LOTS of nervous energy waiting for him to arrive.
So I'd had a boyfriend before, for like ten minutes, but I'd never gone on a date, really, much less had to plan it. Looking back, I cringe, but I told Rafal we were going to go ice skating. He was good at roller blading, but not great at ice skating, and I was really good at the time, and I didn't really stick with him that much. He probably felt like the date was really sucking. I was having fun, though, because I loved ice skating. He fell once. I was really embarrassed for him. After skating, we walked around together on the Downtown Mall for a while. I remember running into some other friends, including Simon, which further shittified the date for Rafal. But he liked me enough to just deal with it, and we held hands and walked and talked, and I was having a marvelous time, even if I was sort of torturing him.
When he dropped me off at home, we stood together in the driveway, leaning on the driver's side of the car, hugging each other. We both wanted to kiss, but we were too nervous, so we just held this long embrace. When he said he had to go, I took his car keys and threw them into the trees by my house. He liked that, and made no rush to find them. We just hugged, without saying anything. I felt his heart beating hard, probably because he was nervous, thinking about kissing me, and I'm sure he felt mine beating hard for the same reasons, too. We stood there so long that we actually fell asleep holding each other. Not like a long sleep, but we both nodded off. When that happened, we conceded it was time for him to head home. But he'd be back the next day.
I don't remember what we did on Saturday. We may not have gone anywhere, actually. It's possible he just came over and we hung out. What I remember from that night, anyway, all happened on the big brown couch at my house. I remember him telling me why he had developed a crush on me. When Phred and I would hang out with their group, he'd talk, and I'd make eye contact with him, and laugh. He said he could tell I was very sweet because of how I paid attention to him when he talked, and he'd had a crush on me since I'd started hanging out with them, back in the fall. But when I'd tried to get him to pimp me to Alex, he'd given up for a while. That made me so sad. I was really falling for him, and I hated that I'd hurt his feelings. I would have loved to have gone out with him, even at the height of Alex Mania. But we'd found our way to each other eventually. All was well now! He had told me over IM that there was an easy way to keep him awake if he was falling asleep -- I could give him a kiss. So that night, we're hanging out, and it gets dark, and we're alone on the couch together with no lights on or anything, and he starts nodding off again. Or maybe he's faking it. But anyway he reminds me of what he told me. It takes me a moment, but I gather my courage, and then I kiss him.
Now, Simon was the only boy I'd ever kissed before, and I was always so self-conscious while doing it. Simon only ever kissed with lots of tongue, so that was the only kind of kissing I knew of. I never really made out with Simon...just had a few long, sloppy kisses every once in a while at school. But here I am on my couch in the dark with Rafal, and no bell is going to ring to send us to class, and no one is around, so we just keep kissing. And I remember how he took the lead, and varied the amount of tongue, and how it felt so exciting and so good. I was amazed by what I was experiencing. I didn't know you could make out while not being deep into the other's esophagus the whole time. It was magnificent. Rafal also liked to do this thing where he would suck my breath out. It was a goof, but he did it a lot in our early relationship. I don't remember if he did it that night or not, but it's something I remember about making out with him.
We were doing some serious making out that night, when all of a sudden I hear the front door. We bolt apart on the couch just in time for my brother Adrian to open the door and see us sitting in the dark, three feet apart from each other and staring straight ahead. He knew what was up, and reminded me that he's not an idiot. He suggested that it was a little too late for me to be having boys over, and effectively sent Rafal home.
The next day was Easter Sunday, and I skipped church, because I'd been up late making out with my new boyfriend. My family had all gone, though, and at about 11:30am, the phone rang at home. I answered, and it was Mama Hallock on the other end. She was the priest's wife (Episcopal priests can be married). Except on Easter Sunday, she always dressed up as the Easter Bunny. So she's not using her regular voice, but she's using this high-pitched voice, and says it's the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny tells me she knows that I was with a boy last night and that's why I skipped church, and that's not cool. I was MORTIFIED. It was all in fun, though. It's not like kissing was doing something wrong, and I don't think Mama Hallock was really scolding me for dating. I'm sure my brother just thought it would be hilarious. And it was. To him.
Didn't stop me, though! Rafal and I were together every day from that point forward. He'd come to my house around 7am each morning to have breakfast with me and drive me to school. He worked in the afternoons at a vet clinic, but he'd come over after that. Sometimes he'd pick me up and we'd go out; other times he'd just hang out at the house with me. One thing we did a lot was we'd go into the small bedroom downstairs that still had a twin bed in it at the time, and we'd just lie down and cuddle on that bed. It was very innocent. When I was lying in the crook of his arm, I wanted to stay there forever. He said the same thing. And we did lie like that for hours on end. It felt really perfect.
To be continued...