This one goes out to all you young lovers (and the people who will soon dump you). The rainy season just started here in North Texas, a little late this time, but the Stock Show always seems to bring out the wetness. Listening to the pitter of raindrops on my window the other morning also took me back to a fond memory of when I was but a nineteen year old, new to sex, drugs, and rock & roll. Please allow me to take you back there.
Nineteen I was, yes, but just finishing my sixth and last year of high school. During that semester, I had gotten drunk and stoned for the first times, and my hormone levels were through the roof. I've always been a late bloomer, and high school had been for me mostly a nightmare of isolation with the nerds, so when I joined up with a small group of gamers I thought it would be just another summer of self-love. Oh, how life comes at us when we least suspect!
The group I was hanging with at the time was made up of Keith, my oldest friend from childhood, Mike, who was slightly older than us and who would eventually marry Keith's sister, Shawn, an ex-roommate of Mike's and my current manager at Primo's Pizza, Shawn's current roommate Eric, grandson and heir to Fort Worth's only black-owned funeral home, and whoever Keith and Mike could find to play Risk or Fortress America with us `til all hours. We mostly got together on Monday nights, because of everyone's schedules, and usually at Shawn and Eric's house, which they three-upped with their friend from school, Candace. She who wasn't a bit interested in gaming, but, as it turned out, was interested in me.
Ever since junior high, I've been the kind of guy who liked to hang out until long after the party's over, if you will, because I love to see how people change to 'normal' mode when the guests dissipate. Not that I would want to stay past my welcome. Back then, I usually ended up helping to clean, and that was fine. You hear the best gossip that way. That, and get dibs on the last of the smoke and beverages.
On the night in question, however, there was nothing to clean, and no gossip to hear. It had been a mellow campaign of Star Fleet Battles which had lasted since Saturday afternoon through sundown on Monday. We'd broken the night before at Keith's and met again at Shawn and Mike's. Nothing out of the ordinary here, except that Candace seemed to be taking more than usual interest in the game. After the last hit had been taken on the last Klingon D7, Keith had left, and Shawn had hit the sack; Mike, Eric, and I stuck it out long enough to hit on a jay. This was a bit of an open secret we kept from Keith, who frowned on that sort of thing. Candace stayed with us, despite the fact that she didn't smoke, and offered me some wine. I should have gotten a hint what was on her mind then, but I was oblivious to that sort of thing. Most of the time, I still am.
Candace was a beautiful woman, and by woman I mean that she was four years older than me; as were Mike, Eric, and Shawn. Like Keith and I, they had all been in the same grade at school. She was shorter than me but not as skinny, with full, brown hair longer than her back. To a nerd like me, she was so beyond reach I hadn't considered the thought she might be interested, but during that last spring semester spent over gameboards, she'd always been sweet to me.
After the joint, Eric bowed out, leaving Candace the only roommate present, and when Mike began to make moves toward the door, I knew it was time to go. Candace changed that, though, asking if I had to be anywhere. It was still relatively early, though on a school night, but I figured, what the fuck? Mike saw what I didn't, he later told me, and gave me another jay "for future reference." I was more puzzled by that than by Candace's behavior, but he left, so it was back to the couch for me and Candace.
Right before I met her, she had broken up with her fiance of two years who left her with a milk crate of vinyls because, as she put it, he didn't have a turntable. She asked if I wanted to listen to something, so I went through hers and his, picking Led Zeppelin I, `cause I hadn't heard it all the way through yet. She said she didn't particularly like them, prefering Duran Duran and the Beatles, but was curious because she also hadn't heard it through. I asked if she wanted to smoke the jay with me, and she demured, yet told me to "have at it." Polite I wasn't, and all the pot I had smoked until then would fit in my palms, so I wasn't about to let the opportunity pass. I couldn't smoke it at home with the `rents, of course. I didn't have a lighter, so she went to the kitchen for matches and more wine. She came back with that and a candle instead. I honestly remember only thinking that it would be cool to have while Zeppin'. As she turned off the lights and slid back onto the couch beside me, closer this time, I only knew this was turning out to be a good night. I didn't realize it was really the last one of my childhood.
As I smoked, we sipped, and Robert Plant wailed, I sat back against the end of the couch and the thought first came to me that I might get lucky. Candace and I talked about music and what we had listened to in childhood, giving me the idea that she had spent most of hers with her ears glued to pop radio while I had had the benefit of older brothers and sisters who had more diverse tastes. So sure I was of what she was about. Then she told me she thought I was beautiful, which I could see from her gaze wasn't just flattery, and I fell off the edge of the world. She was beautiful, I was only another stoned, directionless loser. But the pot, the wine, and the music were coming together in a way that anyone would recognize as a Moment. Still, I shrugged it off nervously and finished the joint, trying to get her off the subject. She wasn't to be shrugged off, though, and only made it more clear she wanted me to stay the night. I had school in the morning and parents at home who'd be pissed that I stayed out yet another night, but my youth was stronger than logic, so I said, as she did so often in her odd way, "Ya think?"
It wasn't quite that easy, like a light switch, because I was still nervous, and after two glasses of wine I needed to lose some dead weight. Yet after I came back from the bathroom and sat against the end of the couch like before, she sidled up to me as if we were already together. Suddenly, I wasn't nervous any more and we stopped talking. I can remember that she had turned over the record in my absence, but the B side didn't seem to last nearly as long as the A. She nuzzled under my chin and told me I smelled good, which made as much sense to me as her saying I was beautiful, for I had spent the whole day sweating over a gameboard, but I wasn't arguing. I had her unbelievably long hair in my hands and her own, perfumed richness all to myself. Somewhere in there our hands touched and meshed and she raised her face to be kissed. I don't recall which song was playing, but that kiss was tender in some indefinable way exactly as my first real one had been on the soccer field with Denise eight years before. Finally, with a certainty born of millions of years of evolution, I knew I was going to get laid.
Oh, it didn't take long after that, my patient friends. I was a fumbling teenager after all, and once the flame had been kindled, my mouth and fingers were not to be disappointed, much less, Little Raj. As soon as the last notes of "How Many More Times" filtered away into vinyl fuzz, we picked up our wine glasses and walked to her room. If pride could be measured by the ounce, I'd swear I had more in me than all the kegs of wine in the world. Candace, to her credit, never made me feel like a kid, either. We took off our clothes like children tearing open Christmas presents and my hands and mouth were all over her. I'd give you more details, but I was pretty well toasted by that time. It would only be more embarassing, in any case, because I didn't last long the first time. Or the second. It took longer than I wanted to go again, so I spent most of the rest trying my skills at foreplay. Skills I'm sure I yet am centuries away from mastering, if ever. She treated me like her one, true love, however, and for that I'll be forever grateful. Like Denise, I guess, experience had given her the wisdom to know those moments meant much more to me than to her. The thing I remember the most about that night, besides the look in Candace's eyes when she said, "you know, you can stay here tonight", was how warm she was inside.
Perhaps these times mean as much to everyone who experiences them, but for me, buzzing on THCs and alcohol as I was, feeling myself inside her the first time was like the culmination of every plan ever devised and the luckiest of accidents. It probably took me all of two minutes to make it official.
What remains to give me pause at times like this isn't all my fumbling that night or even the few bits of real pleasure I got out of it. The fact that Candace afterward only spoke well of it helped, of course, but even that became just icing on a cake that was, after all, only a birthday cake of sorts. What takes me back is waking the next day to the soft sound of rain outside her one window. I wasn't going to school, and, looking over at her hair playing tricks with the shadows, I wasn't going home very soon either. I waited for her to wake up naturally, though. Like numberless people before me, I lay there beside her and took stock of where I was and what it meant. The pride had gone the same way as the nervousness. What replaced them was utter contentment. Six weeks after, we both would rather spit than look at each other, yet that morning I could have been murdered on the spot and would have thanked my killer for doing it while everything was so perfect. The rain shhhhhed and Candace breathed so quietly I could tell only by how her chest moved.
And I was a man.