The First Time…


The first time…

The first time I saw you, I knew the pictures I'd seen – the only images of you I'd known for years – couldn't compare to the reality of what was walking towards me. But then, pictures never can. They can capture a memory, freeze a moment in time; they can capture a person's likeness, but not the depth of one's personality. And not a single picture I'd known from you could compare to the image that burned into my mind that day I first met you in person. It's not that you were amazingly hot or unnaturally good-looking. You were still pretty goofy, honestly. But I'm not so shallow, and you still looked better in person than any picture I'd seen. I won't say you took my breath away, but seeing you was definitely a breath of fresh air. Probably because, up to the point where you were within earshot, I don't think I realized I'd been holding my breath.

The first words – word, really – you ever said to me was, "hey," as you spotted me, and I spotted you, in the parking lot of Taco Bell – the one familiarity (because, as I would later come to find out, it is your go-to fast food restaurant) in an entirely unfamiliar town. And in that initial moment of recognition, between the anxiety and the awkwardness, even it was almost too overwhelming. The voice I'd grown so used to, so dependent upon over the years, the one I only knew through the static of a telephone line, was nothing like the voice that spoke that simple word. It was familiar and unfamiliar. And for as comfortable as I had always been talking to you, words caught in my throat and all I could manage to say to you was an equally confused, "hey," and a hurried "follow me," as I ushered you out of the parking lot and led you to where you'd be staying.

The first thing I did after you'd followed me back to my house was show you to your room: "Through the back door, immediately to the left, through the sorry excuse of a home office, and into the spare bedroom. Oh, and sorry about the size. That's why they call it a spare." Then I left you to unpack your meager week's supply of clothing from your single carry-on and went upstairs to sit on the couch to wait. After all the years I'd spent envisioning this moment, this time of finally getting to be with you, at the reality of it all, I choked pretty miserably. For as well as I felt I knew you, for as much as I loved you – because even without having met you in person until this day, that had been the reality of the last five years – I was scared to be alone with you. I was awkward with you in my house, in my presence. I loved your personality, the idea of you; the thing I had come to know. Your body, in the flesh, threw me for a loop. Sure, I loved it, too. But I hadn't been given the opportunity to put a physical face to my emotions ever, so when the opportunity came, finally, I didn't know what to make of it. And you didn't either, is the funny thing.

The first time I really took a moment to let myself think about the fact that you were finally here with me, after so many years of half-assed promises, was also the first time that I realized how old we had grown in the time since those half-hearted promises first started getting made. No, I wasn't old, and neither were you. I was 20 and you were 24. But this all started when I was 16 and you were 20, and so of course I was surprised to realize that, suddenly, I was alone with you; a man I'd never met before, had not yet really gotten to know and yet knew better than most, and whom I still loved with all of my heart. And that now, instead of being an awkward teen, I was a grown woman. Funnily enough, however, I was still awkward. Because I still didn't quite know what to do, how to proceed, now that I'd finally gotten you where I wanted you. And before I could think about it, you emerged from downstairs, having unpacked and freshened up after the eleven hour drive, and came to sit down beside me. On the other end of the couch. You were just as unsure of yourself as I was. No doubt, the same thoughts that had flown through my mind had crossed yours as well. And now that you were here, you didn't know what to do, either.

The first time you made a move towards me, I scooted away, farther down the length of the couch. You sat at one end and I at the other. The TV rattled some muted static as background noise. I don't think either of us paid it much mind. We played this game for a few minutes. Gradually, you'd inch closer, and subtly, I'd pull away. Then, finally, you backed me into the arm of the couch with no way to move but towards you. I just sat there, rigid, making nervous small talk. I felt your eyes on me the whole time, felt each slight movement and pause as you closed the gap between us. And all I could think was, why is it so damn awkward? I'd known you forever, loved you just as long. So why was this so painfully difficult? When you got close enough to touch, and because I had nowhere else to go, I wedged a throw pillow between us. Not that it did a lot of good. After a minute, I forgot myself and propped an arm up on it, using it as an impromptu armrest. I won't say I forgot about you or your proximity, necessarily. More likely, I just had a lapse in thought at the prospect of having an armrest – because I'm always leaning my arms on something and I couldn't resist the allure. Or something.

The first time you touched me there weren't any sparks or fireworks – at least not on my end. You simply used my lapse in thought to make your move and lightly rested your hand on top of the one I'd carelessly thrown across the pillow that acted as the barricade between us. It was a simple gesture, a light touch. You barely squeezed my hand, just rested yours there, atop mine. I just turned blank eyes towards the TV, refusing to look your way, because I was still too nervous to know how to respond. But I could feel you smiling, quite satisfied with yourself, at your monumental achievement. That small touch finally started the ice melting. Conversation was still stop and go. After five years of nothing but long distance, I'd say we knew all the basic and not-so-basic things about each other, that this 'first time' conversation was made all the more awkward just because we didn't have the usual stuff to sift through to help us on our way.

The first time you kissed me was much the same – pure male initiative on your part and a simple misjudgment of proximity and scattered thoughts for mine. We were still sitting on the couch with the TV buzzing background noise that neither of us cared about. We were finally talking, somewhat; still slogging through the niceties: "How was the weather on your drive down? How was the drive itself?" But it wasn't as awkward. And I had finally settled my nerves and had even moved the pillow out from between us, to rest my hand (now help loosely in yours) atop your thigh, and lean ever-so-slightly against you. I was slowly getting comfortable, and you took advantage of it to make a joke. I don't remember what it was. I can't even say for sure if it was a joke, honestly. But I know I took good-natured offense. Because even with the awkwardness between us, I'd known you long enough and had come to recognize the inflictions in your tone well enough, to recognize amiable teasing even then. So I turned to face you. I don't remember what I planned to say then – it doesn't matter so much because the words never got spoken, anyway. I faced you, happily indignant, words of rebuttal on my tongue, and then you kissed me: simple, light and quick. And the words caught in my throat.

The first night you spent with me was an accident. The first thing I'd done upon your arrival was show you to your room. And I truly had every intention that you would actually sleep there in the time you spent visiting me. But the awkwardness of the forgone hours had fallen away entirely after that first, experimental kiss and we had gotten to talking easily. So easily that neither of us really wanted to say goodnight and see the day end; the day we'd both been waiting for, for entirely too long. It was late and I went downstairs to my room to change for bed. I had even left you outside my door with a tired 'good night' and had meant for that to end the day. There hadn't been another kiss after that first chaste one. There hadn't been much touching beyond that. A simple 'good night' was all that should have been needed. But you still wanted to talk. You called me old, said I had no plans in the morning and you were on vacation, so why should I go to bed and cut the evening short when I had all day tomorrow to sleep in? And, because subconsciously I secretly didn't want the night to be over either, I acquiesced with little persuasion. And I invited you into my room, which was the first time you'd seen it, since I was a negligent host and forewent the usual house tour. We sat on the bed and talked. After a while, my body started demanding sleep, however much I tried to deny it, and again, I tried to bid you good night. You got up with no questions, saying you should probably sleep too, considering your long day, and headed for my door. And that should have been it. But I surprised us both – by inviting you to sleep down here, if you so desired.

The first time you really kissed me, I warned you to not start something you couldn't finish, or worse, would come to regret. We were lying in my bed, and all the previous awkwardness had come back headlong. I lay there, facing the wall and with you spooning my back. No, it's not the first time I'd been in bed with a man. I have a lot of male friends. I don't think much of sharing a bed or even cuddling with them. But this wasn't one of my guys. This was you, the man I loved. And all I could do was lie there, rigid and embarrassed. We talked some more because with your presence as a quite solid line on my back, all thoughts I'd had of sleep had evaporated and the same could be said for you. And the talking helped relax me, made me less nervous, and reminded me that, hey, I'd known you for five years, and I'd been waiting for this day for a long time, so mellow the eff out. As I started to feel more comfortable about the whole thing, however, you took our previously casual talk to a different level and confided in me "I've waited for this for a long time. I'm glad it feels as right as I've always imagined it would." And then, with your hot breath whispering those soft words against my neck, you kissed me again, softly. And this time, I did feel the spark.

The first time you told me in person that you loved me, I thought that I'd never heard sweeter words, nor known a sweeter touch. Because it was the first time you showed me that you loved me, too. We laid there in bed that night, your tentative kiss having sparked something between us that our nerves had kept dormant during the day. Your tentative kiss became a thing of longing, your gentle touch curious. And I too was starved for knowledge of your body. One kiss became many; a delicate touch became a languid caress. And for all that we had come to know of each other in the past five years spanned before us, nothing compared to the knowledge we attained that night. It was carnal and beautiful. Again, before things got heady, I warned you against doing something you would regret. But you rebuked that it was impossible: you'd dreamed of this for far too long to regret a second of it. And so, with all the eagerness that the promise of learning something new brings, exploring and stumbling we brought each other to oblivion. And then, as I lay there in wonderment, before my usual melancholy set in and before I got the chance to worry about you suddenly leaving me, naked and alone in my suddenly too large bed, you kissed me again, so gently I thought I would weep, and told me, "I love you."

And for the first time, that was all that mattered.


L. Sherman