The first girl I ever kissed was Eleanor Carlson. Her family called her Edy for short but she said she would do away with all that once she ran for the senate. She said no one would take her seriously if she ran as Edy Carlson, but Eleanor Carlson, that was a name that could win, a name that could be respected. I didn’t come from a political family like her so I didn’t know what a name was worth.
We lived in a small southern town called Allan. Everyone went to Laurent High, or got home schooled. Edy’s parents had home schooled her for most of her life; but at fifteen she told her parents she needed to be with the people, to learn social skills, so she enrolled at Laurent High School at the end of freshmen year.
We didn’t meet until mid January of our sophomore year. I’d wanted to take drama because I liked plays about New York City, but the class got full so I was put in my second choice: reading. I liked books so I was okay with the choice but was sure it wasn’t going to be as much fun as all my other friends were having, acting out scenes of Rent and Stop Kiss.
Our reading teacher was Miss Michelle Carr; she was young and beautiful. Her accent was a little funny though. She said it’s because she was from Atlanta. The first book she had us read was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It was fun and we even got to see the movie. But then some kid complained Harry Potter was against her morals and religion so the Principal scolded Miss Carr for exposing us to fictional witchcraft. He said we were impressionable and that she needed to stick to the curriculum. Edy spoke out and said that it was “dumb” for the Principal to make such a statement and “damn Baptists.”
Everyone’s mouth flew wide open when she said that. I didn’t know if Edy was new to town but she couldn’t say that when almost all of her classmates were Baptists! Allan was full of Baptists and Pentecostals and they were always angry at one another. I was a Catholic so I never mentioned it and the nearest Catholic Church from our house was two towns over. I hated the Sunday drive to mass but my father always stopped at Taco Bell on the way home so that was good.
I tried to come to Edy’s defense. “She didn’t mean that!” I shouted over my angered classmates and Edy yelled even louder, “Yes I did!” I thought everyone was about to hang her out to dry but Miss Carr calmed everyone down. She told us take out pen and paper and write all our thoughts down. All my classmates scribbled angrily on their sheets while I stared dumbly at a defiant Edy, who had her arms covering her chest and a frown on her lips. She caught me staring so I tried to wave but she looked annoyed.
I gave up and wrote on my paper, “I think everyone would have liked The Goblet of Fire.”
That night at dinner I told everyone about the scene at school. My brothers laughed and my father told me to pass the salsa verde. Then my mom said, “I know her, that’s Judge Carlson’s daughter. I work for her dad.” My mother worked at the Allan courthouse as a clerk. She worked with a few of my friend’s parents so I was not surprised. Everyone knew everyone in Allan. “They don’t live too far from us.” My mother said.
Edy and I both lived on South Patchett Road. It was ten miles long. She was at 1405 and I was 1409, which was a good two miles apart. Some nights, after we were already good friends we’d lay in the bed of her pick-up truck and stare at the stars. Allan’s stars were the best she would say to me because city light would just get in the way of the beauty. Her body always felt sticky next to mine; the humidity always messed up her hair, but she would just laugh. I could never tell if the heat on my skin was from her or the tight air.
The day after the Harry Potter incident, Miss Carr produced copies of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It took the rest of January, all of February, til mid-March to finish the book. By the end of it we were all tired of Raskolnikov’s moral conflictions and everyone was mad at the girl who got Harry Potter banned. But I was no longer jealous of my friends in drama class because I had Edy. She didn’t mind my rowdy brothers or that my mom always cooked spicy food. She said eating pollo con mole would help her win the Hispanic vote. I smiled and pushed the brown sauce onto my rice.
Edy had an off-again-on-again boyfriend that she didn’t care too much about. She said he was for appearances. The July before our junior year Edy would come over a lot. We would walk in the forest behind my house, she would talk about philosophy, and I would pick flowers and put them in her hair. One Thursday she was very serious about this one philosopher, her hands were waving around and her cheeks were red. She asked if I ever felt like I was in a dark cave, unable to see past the projections. I said no because I really had no idea what she talking about.
“Don’t you want more than what’s in front of you?” she said, flustered. The yellow flower petals were already falling out of her hair, her white tank top was drenched in sweat, and I could tell the material was clinging to her body. She pushed the blonde hair out of her face and stepped forward to me. I stepped back. “I’m not going to hit you,” she whispered. I counted every freckle on her nose and she pushed her lips against mine and I let her.
Her lips were soft, not like a boy’s. And she was gentle, not like a boy. My body felt like it was on fire, it was never like this with a boy. Her hands seemed to know where to go but mine didn’t. I thought maybe I should touch her breasts, so I did. I let my right hand cup her left breast and it lingered there until I got brave enough to slip my hand under her shirt.
My clothes had to have been wet. I was sweating everywhere but her mouth didn’t care. Her breath was hot against my neck and her teeth bit into my collarbone like I was a piece of meat. My underwear were soaked, a mixture of mostly sweat paired with a new feeling I didn’t know. “Aida!!” I could hear my brother screaming. “Aida! Dad says how many enchiladas do you want? Edy?” I moved away from Edy and held onto the nearest tree.
“I want three!” I shouted and looked at Edy. Her chest was pink. “Two,” she yelled.
I was glad my brother had called out instead of finding us. I wouldn’t have known what to do. I let go of the tree and grabbed her hand, noticing her yellow nail polish. I whispered in her hair the word yes, over and over.
Later that night I felt incredibly calm as if everything finally made sense. I replayed the kiss in my mind a few times before falling asleep. The next morning I got a text from Edy stating her had decided to spend the rest of the summer in North Carolina. She said that she was back with Thad and felt this was the best move for her political career. Thad’s father was a senator and she would need the numbers that her ties with the Stone family would bring. I told her that it made sense and she thanked me for understanding.
When she came back in the fall things were strained but we would still have sleepovers and dinners together. Some nights I could feel her arm pressed against my back and I willed myself not to turn over and face her. She would hold my knee and tell me how much she loved Thad and she was sure they’d get married one day, even though I’d pictured Edy and I getting married.
One night she sent me an extraordinarily vague text saying she broke up with Thad and had finally saw the light. At first I was annoyed, now instead of hearing “I love Thad” all the time I’d be hearing how much she hated him, and I would have to pretend to be supportive and not jealous. But the worst thought came to me: Edy had broken up with Thad for me! I could hardly eat my father’s pozole. I concealed my giddy smiles by stuffing cabbage in the soup. My brothers stared at me and my father muttered I must be on my period.
The next morning I waited at our usual spot at school. I thought about the kiss in the woods and I felt my neck burn. I saw her walking towards me and I tried so hard to keep the smile down, but it wasn’t too hard considering I realized right away she was holding another boy’s hand. She came over to me and they both talked excitedly. Mostly about boring government stuff and how joining the Peace Corps to save those hurt souls in Ethopia would come in handy one day if she ever decided to run for president. My neck and eyes burned.
In a moment of teenage haste, or to get my mind off of Edy, I went and bought menthol cigarettes and played the lottery. I didn’t win. I called my old boyfriend and told him to come to my house. That’s when I told him I thought I was bi. He said “that’s cool” and kissed me. I let him and tried to pretend that his wet, salty kisses could one day be desirable. To say Edy and I began to part ways sounds like an old boring Western, which it felt like at times. We’d shoot each other with words. Hers were always more eloquent. At my mother’s job, Edy’s father asked her where I’d been; telling her I’d missed out on Jenga. My mother lied and said I was failing Spanish class so I’d been trying really hard to study. Well, it wasn’t a complete lie, I wasn’t doing well, but I wasn’t trying either. How could they expect me to conjugate verbs in Spanish when I could hardly do that in English?
I started dating my old boyfriend again as a distraction and to look as if I didn’t care. I confronted Edy and made an emotional spiel about losing my virginity to him. I didn’t actually have sex with him, the thought made me want to vomit. But it worked, and she wanted to be around me all the time and hear all about it. I borrowed some of my brother’s porn so I could know what to tell her, but looking at all those girls with their legs spread in magazines made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to objectify my fellow women and they never looked happy. How can you enjoy it if they’re not happy?
I decided to come clean to Edy, to tell her how I felt. I was terrified because all my life I’d heard bad things about homosexuals, but I didn’t feel like a homosexual, I was just a girl who really liked another girl. I liked how soft her arms were and the different designs she put on her nails. I saw no reason as how this could cause me eternal damnation.
Unfortunately Edy decided to give me the truth first as we sat in the back of her truck, in the middle of the woods. She caught a lighting bug with her hands; I tried as well but accidently killed mine. She laughed and smiled so I did too. We were both sweating because the heat kept getting worse and no one believed in Al Gore’s global warming theories. The tips of my hair began to curl and Edy started playing with them; I held my breath not knowing what else to do, then she kissed me softly. I didn’t realize this was one of those goodbye kisses like in the movies, so I kissed her back really fast before she turned away, leaving me with a mouthful of hair. She then proceeded to tell me how I needed to get over her, and how it’s “so obvious you’re in love with me”. She’d also told her parents I was gay and they felt really sorry for me; then she told me how lucky I was my mom still had her job and what would happen if everyone at the courthouse knew that the deputy clerk’s daughter was gay.
I shoved her really hard and she fell out of the truck onto the ground. She tried to get up and I shoved her again. “You know I’m a pacifist!” She cried out, dirt on her face. I bent over and threw up yellow bile. “I’m sorry,” she told me. “I’m sorry but I can’t have a political career and be gay. I would never make it.”
She drove me home. I stuck my right hand out of the window and tried to catch lighting bugs. She whispered about having to be careful or I’d kill them.
A few years later when I came home to visit my parents from college there was a “Vote Eleanor Carlson for Mayor” sign in the front yard. The girl I was dating was in the passenger seat so I tried to look calm. “That’s her, isn’t it?” I nodded. We’d only been on four dates but she said she really wanted to hang out with my family; she said they sounded fun and she would love to learn how to cook real enchiladas one day.
She got out the car and walked over to the sign; I turned the car off and followed her. “What are you doing?” I called out. She turned around and said, “I really want you to run this sign over but I know how you hate looking angry and immature, so I’m going to be immature for you.” She took a pen out of her purse and drew devil horns and a mustache on Edy’s face, and then she grabbed my hand and swung me around, a failed but romantic attempt at ballroom dancing. We laughed and I wiped my eyes, watching her walk toward the sign to take it down.