The awful DJ was playing mid-90s pop songs, the sort that we all have been trying to forget for ten years. I don’t know what his deal was. It wasn’t like I hadn’t helpfully given him my Temple of the Dog and Live CDs (labelled with my name so they wouldn’t get mixed up with anyone else’s Live or Temple of the Dog CDs). If there’s one thing a dance party in 1996 needed, it was a healthy dose of alternative rock.
It was late evening, December 31, 1996 in London, England, and I was impatiently looking around a New Years Eve themed London hotel ballroom for my at-the-time favorite girl in the world. We were there on a high school marching band trip, which intelligently incorporated opportunity for inter-genderal socialization for the same reason that you have a fuse on circuits in your house. The girl was only the cutest and most ticklish blonde flute player in the universe (I think it is okay to admit that tickling was a key component of my game back when I was 15), but despite a heavy amount of apocalyptically inept flirting, she wasn’t my girlfriend yet.
Honestly, at 15, I had no idea what girlfriends really were. Like with quasars, I knew the word had meaning and described a thing that exists, but only for other, cooler people than me.
It didn’t matter. I wasn’t even thinking in those terms, I’m sure. I knew that I felt best when Cute Flute Girl was close by, and that I was absolutely sure that I would get to dance with her for the first time on New Years Eve. But as I turned to look out the window into the snowy London night, I started to doubt. Maybe she wasn’t coming after all. But at some level, I knew not to worry. It would be okay. As if to reassure me, the DJ put on a song by The Cranberries.
I turned away from the window, and there she was in the doorway, framed against the brightness of the hallway. She didn’t have to look around. We instantly made eye contact, and as The Cranberries surged in the dim ballroom, I felt like flying as I closed the distance to go stand next to her.
I can’t remember a better New Years Eve than that one, dancing 1996 into 1997 with a girl I didn’t honestly know what to really do with.
The evening at its close, we stopped at CFG’s hotel room. She leaned against the wall to the left of the door, and I looked at her, knowing instinctually that something needed to be said.
“Do you want to be my girlfriend?” was what I came up with. Honestly, compared to everything I’ve said in the intervening 10 years, I don’t know if that isn’t the best and least awkward thing I’d ever said to a girl.
She whispered back: “Yes.” And before I could help myself, with absolutely no clue that I was even remotely about to do this properly, with no preparation or warning, I leaned in slowly and kissed her. It couldn’t have been more innocent if we were Disney characters. I also practically passed out.
That was my first kiss.