Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Kissing A Boy Under the Mistletoe

Rock Island, December 1977

In junior high, Brian was on the outer edges of my social circle, really one of my brother's friends..  We never hung out.  And when I was in high school, he moved with his parents to Bettendorf, across the river, so I rarely saw him at all.  Yet he was there during some of the most memorable moments of my childhood (I haven't posted about all of them yet):

The first time I hear about gay people on tv.
The secret message at Washington Junior High
Philippine Tubes
The drawing in the basement
And "How Deep is Your Love"

On December 23, 1977, when I was in twelfth grade (a month or so after the Black Student Union Dance and some six months before I Figured It Out), my brother Ken hosted a party for his Rocky High crowd.  He draped our basement rec room with tinsel and offered guests pingpong, foosball, Happy Joes pizzas, Christmas presents, and disco music (but no dancing -- against Nazarene rules). 

I played pingpong for awhile with a stocky, dull-eyed girl named Anne.  Then Brian arrived with a friend from Bettendorf (across the river in Iowa).  He was thin and taut with a misty smile, his hair much darker than in grade school.  He was wearing a green sweater awash with little red bells, and tight faded jeans that bulged like a teen idol’s. 

 After they said "H'lo" to Ken, they started mingling, and when they got to the mistletoe, I said "Hey, everybody, my first victims!" and kissed them both on the cheek.  Everybody laughed.

Later I ran into Brian alone, and sat with him on the couch. "Cool joke!" he said.

We about talked his classes, AP English and German.  We talked about my college applications.  We talked about Pajama Game and Ragtime, Happy Days and The Great Gatsby, and a hundred other things I couldn’t recall later. We played pingpong and foosball.  We went outside to look at the stars. Then, because his friend didn’t want to leave yet, I drove him through the black, bitter cold night to his house in Bettendorf.

We parked against the hard-packed snow and sat for awhile in the darkness. In a stumbling goodbye, I said “Just because you live in Bettendorf doesn’t mean we can’t get together once in a while.” And then I reached over and hugged Brian. I felt his slim taut chest, looked down at his belt buckle glimmering in the darkness. His breath smelled of cough drops. I hugged him tighter. 

“Sure, I’ll call you,” Brian said. He disentangled himself and crunched across the ice to his back door.

When I got home and went back downstairs to the party, Ken immediately tromped over. “You’re a regular Fonzie!” he exclaimed. “When’s the big date?”

“Are you calling me a Swish?” I exclaimed. “I was just giving him a ride home.  No way am I a Swish!” (That was our high school word for "gay.")

Ken rolled his eyes. “Cool it, Captain Spazz! Everything isn’t always about Swishes. I saw you cozying up to Anne before.”

“Oh. . .Anne’s not my type. I don’t date 10th graders.”

Suddenly very tired, I went upstairs to our attic room and crawled into bed and turned on my clock radio.  The #1 song of the season was playing, "How Deep is Your Love," by the BeeGees:

Cause we're living in a world of fools, breaking us down
When they all should let us be.  We belong to you and me

I lay in bed, my thoughts blurred, varying between "I wonder if he'll call?" and "No way am I a Swish!"

Brian didn't call.


  1. I played "How Deep Is Your Love?" on the piano this evening.



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