First Kiss...



I kept falling over
I kept looking backward
I went broke believing
That the simple should be hard

Meadow Lake Campground, Jamestown, Pennsylvania...

The rain had let up and was falling softly as Matt looked up the road toward the cabin; a long time haven for his family, it had become almost a place ….what’s the opposite of refuge… a hectic and unwelcoming place. He threw the half-full can of Mountain Dew against the beech tree only a few yards away; the can exploded angrily, but the action did nothing to diffuse Matt’s anger.

“Hey, Matt?” His brother Aaron called from down the road behind him. He turned to see the boy running toward him.

“I swear to God, Ar…get the fuck out of my face.” He wished he had another can to throw; this one would probably take Aaron’s head clean off his shoulders.

“Matt…I’m sorry. Please?” The boy stopped in his tracks even as his anxiety continued to run to his brother. The look on Matt’s face stopped the rest of him as well and he put his head down.

“You’re sorry?” Matt shook his head and blinked out tears mixed equally and judiciously with sadness and anger and disappointment. He was disappointed, wasn’t he?

“Look…I didn’t mean it. I’m sorry.” Aaron almost whined; his tone seemed to give up any hope of placating his older brother. Matt wasn’t really that angry, was he?

“Fuck it, Ar. You shoulda said somethin’! Just go the fuck away, Ar…I need to be by myself…leave me the fuck alone!” The older boy mirrored his brother’s body language and wrapped his arms around his body in a pathetic self-hug. No one…not even his brother, would understand how hurt he was. And how utterly stupid and selfish and ashamed he was.”

“Mom sez to meet her over at the office; we’re gonna go home tonight.” Matt had figured as much since traveling to another campsite for one night didn’t make much sense and they had spent all morning packing the van in silence. He sat down on a very large rock at foot of the driveway and leaned back against a tree behind him. A moment later he heard a voice call him. Soft and welcoming, the sweetness dripped off the tongue like so much poison on a dagger. He looked up and saw a shadow blocking the sun like some misplaced eclipse.

“I wanted to say goodbye.” The girl said with a quiver in her voice. He said nothing.

“I…I’m sorry.” That word again. “Sorry?” he thought.

“I….wanted to tell you, but….” The voice quivered even more and trailed off.

“Listen. You don’t owe me a thing. You… I guess you couldn’t help yourself.” The words were conciliatory but the tone was dismissive, leaving the girl to put her head down.

“Just forget it….we’re leaving an’ that’ll be it….no fucking problem, you know. I guess you’ll just find some other fucking idiot and everything will be okay.” Disappointment dripped from his words. If he hadn’t expected so much from their time it wouldn’t be a disappointment…or at least it wouldn’t hurt as much as it did. She stepped closer and put her hand out. He slapped it away; his anger and his foolish pride treated her as if she was exactly what he thought her to be. She pulled her hand back and stared at the red mark on side and burst into tears.

“Oh, come on! That didn’t hurt at all.” It really didn’t hurt much physically, but the idea that he thought it was okay to hit her hand broke her heart; the last hope of salvaging what they had dashed on the road before her like so many of the dusty rocks.

“Did I change so much from yesterday to today, Matt? Am I so much different?” She looked down at herself, wondering if she was as deluded as his words made her feel.”

“You fucking lied to me. And you got my brother to go along with the fucking joke!” He looked up only enough to reveal a harsh glared.

“Matt…no….don’t blame Aaron. He didn’t know….I…” She put her head down. It was never intentional; life just tends to be capriciously cruel at the wrong time. She hadn’t even meant to leave her own cabin, but her mother had been looking for some lost meds and she ran into both brothers in the shared parking area.

All we are we are
All we are we are
And every day is a start of something beautiful

“I….I lied to him….I’m sorry…don’t blame him, okay?” She hadn’t lied at all; she had every intention of telling the boys and their mother that evening but Aaron somehow had figured it out and teased Matt about sneaking a kiss….

“Mom…we met a girl today.” He had started innocently enough, waiting for the perfect time for the big reveal. Matt’s face reddened in anticipation as Aaron continued.

“Olivia….she’s in the cabin over there,” Aaron continued and pointed out the window. His mother practically beamed in anticipation and her grin broadened into a huge smile as he had added,

“Matty’s first ki-iss, Matty’s first ki-iss.” The teasing was playful enough, drawing Matt into the silly teasing until Aaron added snidely,

“Matty kissed a boy-oy, Matty kissed a boy-oy.” His face grew redder and very hot as his mother looked at him askance as if he had two heads.

“No…NOOOO!” He raise his voice in protest.

“YE-eeessss! I heard him talking with his mom at the snack machines. Somethin’ about meds and not getting ….” Aaron paused for effect, and Matt prayed he was just being his usual dickhead self. He was wrong.

He said, ‘I took the blockers…Dr…’ Somebody told him he wouldn’t get anymore like a boy…and his mother said ‘Yes, Ollie,’ “ Aaron then turned back to Matt and repeated the taunt.

“Matty kissed a boy-oy!” Which was followed quickly by Matt pushing Aaron into the kitchen sink before running out of the cabin.

“He was just being a little brother. I got one myself.” The girl pled with Matt.

“I don’t care. You fucking lied to me.”

“Which was worse, Matt? The lie? Or that you ‘had’ to kiss me?” Her voice quivered again. Not the way she had imagined her first kiss: even in the midst of the boy’s regret, she still felt the warmth the kiss had held at that first moment. It made his regret all the more painful, though, and she burst into tears.

“Oh shit, no…don’t start with that.” Matt stood up and held his arms wide in his own plea, as if the girl could just dismiss the pain and rejection she felt.

“NO…no….stop….” He started to pace nervously. The girl stood almost stock-still; still being if you mean standing and shivering like she was without a coat in a snowstorm. She put her hand over her face, more to cover her shame than to staunch the tears. He stopped and stepped closer before turning quickly and running up the road.

A short while later…

“Say your goodbyes, Matt.” His mother said from behind the wheel as she pulled the car up next to the snack area. He got out and walked gingerly to the machines where Olivia and her mother stood.

“It’s okay, babe. I’ll be at the cabin.” Her mother kissed her on the cheek before walking up the path behind the snack area, leaving her to greet the boy alone.

“I’m sorry I got mad,” Matt said with his arms out and his palms up; hardly an apology and much more of an excuse, as if to say, “You gotta admit, any guy would have done the same thing.” The sad part about that was that a lot of guys would have done the same thing.

“I gotta know…were you ever gonna tell me?” He looked away, but she caught his angry scowl.

“Get used to disappointment, Matt.” She shrugged her shoulders before thinking better of it.

“Damn it, Matt….Of course I was going to tell you. You kissed me, remember?” He shrugged his shoulders in answer as if he had no explanation. But he continued.

“I thought you were a girl?” His words stung; he really didn’t get it at all, and it left her feeling if anyone would ever get ‘her’ at all.

“I am a girl, Matt. I….I just don’t….It’s hard to explain.” Matt had a vague idea what she meant, but he began to at least try to understand.

“Like you’re in the wrong body? Like that guy on 20/20?” He had seen a news report they played again in health class.

“Yeah…the wrong body…that’s what my mom and I were talking about when your brother overheard us.” Matt looked her up and down. The sweater and heavy flannel of the cool day had covered up the body with the shorts and tank top of only days before. He tilted his head in wonder.

“If things work out, I get to have it fixed when I turn eighteen. I just turned fifteen, so I have to….” She looked down at her body and thought of the response he and his brother had, and the prospects of three more years of the same overwhelmed her and she began to cry once again. This time harder and probably with much more pain than he had ever seen other than when his mom told him about his father’s death. She began shaking once again as well, and her helpless feelings seemed to grab him and shake him to his core. He stepped closer, but this time, instead of running away, he took the girl in his arms and held her.

“It’s okay…I’m really sorry.” The tone might have been a bit loud and rushed, but the arms holding the girl proved the sincerity of the words. She put her arm around his neck and put her head against his chest. What did he know about life and girls and boys who wanted to be girls? Boys who actually are girls? Nobody prepared him for the most confusing moment in his fifteen years on earth.

He patted her on the back and spoke; softer and with much less urgency.

“It’s okay….shh….it’s okay.” Something had just changed inside him; the boy had become the young man; and not just any young man, but a young man who remembered the heartache of losing his own father; the young man who recalled the sad tears his mother shed when she told him his father was gone. He hadn’t meant to, but the pivotal moment moved him; a literal movement that placed his hand on her cheek. She looked up briefly before putting her arm around his neck as she laid her head on his chest; a place that only moments before had been a place of anger and bias and shame. She began to shake as the tears came once again; this time cleansing and healing; perhaps for both.

“Shhhh.” He said and he leaned close and kissed her; not hard or long or so much romantic, but hard enough and long enough and just romantic enough to heal two people. She stood a tiptoe and added her other arm around his neck as she kissed back. It wasn’t the defining kiss…’the’ kiss for both of them would follow at other times and places. But it was defining, none the less, since it helped both of them realize in a way just who they were by how they saw themselves in each other’s eyes. A girl who was afraid she wasn’t a girl received strength and hope. And a boy who never really wanted to grow up to be a man became one from the confidence and gratitude of a girl who he realized had fallen into the category of ‘what might have been.’

“Matty…Mom sez we gotta get going……” He didn’t hear the rest of his brother’s words as he held the girl in his arms. A few seconds later they parted. He smiled.

“I…I gotta get going, okay?” She held his hand as long as she could as he stepped back. Moments later she stood by the car door, holding a hand that she thought she’d never even see again.

“Thank you.” He said nothing but nodded and smiled once again as the car pulled away.

“Thank you.”

And in the end the words won't matter
'Cause in the end nothing stays the same
And in the end dreams just scatter and fall like rain

'Cause all we are we are
All we are we are
And every day is a start of
something beautiful, something real

All We Are
words and music by the
Matt Nathanson

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