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Jordan

The fact that I was going to turn 15 without having kissed a girl was greatly troubling to me. Almost more troubling than the fact that I wasn't all that attracted to girls to begin with. But let's not get into that yet.

It was towards the end of the school year – April, maybe – and I found myself involved in my umpteenth community theater production. This one was The Secret Garden, and my role wasn't that of the bed-ridden Colin haunted by his mother's ghost. No, instead I was relegated to the wings, dressed in black and moving furniture on and off the stage. I would later remember this time as my "theater fag years," but at the time there was nothing more dignifying than a Letherman clinging tightly to the waistband of my Dickies.

I worked with Bridget, an older woman about to turn 16. I knew her vaguely from school, and it made me uncomfortable to see my two worlds – White Bear High and my work life at the community theater – come crashing together. At school, I was an overweight, acne-prone wallflower. But in the theater, I was king. Already at 14, I had the longest tenure at the theater of any of the other stagehands, and I eagerly bossed around the temporary help, like Bridget.

But as it turns out, she liked me. I couldn't blame her. I was baby-faced. Adorably round. And wielded the aloofness of a boy who didn't seem to notice girls. Bridget wasn't a knockout, but she was confident and persistent, a magical combination that would leave me helpless against her advances. Like me, she lacked the lean, muscular body of the boys on the cross-country team. She had a kind, round face with a bright smile and a boisterous laugh. She was a bit rough around the edges, but as for acting as a co-star in my performance of denial and self-hatred, she was perfect.

A week after opening night, we began dating. I don't recall the specifics of how the arrangement came to be, but I'm sure it involved an awkward conversation and a healthy dose of confusion on my part. And "dating" wasn't exactly Friday nights at Applebees either. It mostly consisted of hanging out together during intermission, holding hands in the tech booth, and allowing her to poke me incessantly. She was more comfortable with boyish games of slap and tickle than I was.

About three weeks into our torrid affair, we still hadn't kissed. I was running out of excuses, and I felt the moment looming like the long ride up the tallest hill on a roller coaster, except with the feeling that at any moment I'd look down and realize I wasn't buckled in.

After one Saturday night performance, I asked my friend Bill for a ride home. And, as fate would have it, Bridget needed a ride as well. The set up was perfect. She and I cuddled in the back seat of Bill's Taurus, driving with the windows down on one of the few nice evenings of a Minnesota springtime. Admittedly, it was romantic, even for a guy that had spent that very morning finding a new hiding place for his gay porn.

We pulled into my driveway and I scrambled to get out of the car. As I slid out the door muttering goodbyes, I felt Bridget's hand pull me back my collar.

"C'mere chicken shit," she huffed.

And the kiss. Nothing fancy. Just soft lips on chapped lips, and the small expanse of trapped air between two tense mouths.

It happened before I had a chance to feign a cough or a sniffle. It happened before I had a chance to claim onion breath. It happened before I had a chance to sputter, "UNCLE! I'matotalfagandyoushouldknowthatbeforeyoukisslipsthatwilloneday-godwilling-suckhardhotcock." It just happened.

And it wasn't bad. In fact, it was nice. Sweet. A little damp. Somewhat arousing. And not even that confusing.

From the front seat, Bill chimed in: "Either someone's eating peanut butter, or you're kissing."

I smiled, said goodnight, and waddled out of the car in hopes the excitement would drain out of my body before I reached the front door.

A month later, Bridget and I broke up. She cheated on me. I wasn't upset. She was upset that I wasn't upset. I didn't blame her. We never made out. I never attempted to feel her up. It would be almost five years before anyone would get my pants off, and the event would be at the hands of a boy named Mohamed. To Bridget, I would become more exciting after coming out than I was as her boyfriend. Go figure.

Back then, I used to torture myself with mind games. I would set rules in my head, such as, "If I turn on the radio and a chick is singing, I'm straight. If it's a guy, I'm gay." I'd flip on the radio in hopes fate would deliver me from what I dreaded so much. Sometimes it did, but soon, the fate-induced affirmation of my queerness became comforting, and I started feeling invigorated when the powers that be delivered a gay verdict.

About a year ago, Bridget found herself in Boston and asked if she could buy me a beer. After spending several years in Dublin, she married an Irishman. They were now living together in St. Paul.

After our third Guinness and several hours of giggling, she asked me if I remembered that first kiss.

"Yeah, of course."

"So, considering everything, how did it feel?"

"Like nothing I had ever felt."

"Huh," she said. "I guess a kiss is a kiss, then."

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