Sunday, November 1, 2015

My First Kiss, from Greg the Boy Vampire

Rock Island, October 1969

I'm pretty sure that I kissed the boy next door when we got married  in the first grade, but it was a purely ritualistic kiss, necessary to seal our bond.  My first unscripted kiss was in the fall of 1969, in fourth grade.  But not with my boyfriend Bill

I used to rush home from school to catch most of Dark Shadows (1966-71), the Gothic soap opera about tortured vampire Barnabas Collins. Bill didn't like it -- he only liked science fiction -- so he would sit in the bedroom reading comic books until it was time for Cartoon Showboat, or else come over after.  So I invited Greg, a fourth grader who was taller than me, with brown hair and braces, well-built but preternaturally pale, as if he had never been in the sun.

Greg liked science, like Bill and me, but he was also a fan of the paranormal: haunted houses, Bigfoot, UFOs, fairies, demons.  He had a painting of Lucifer falling from heaven on his bedroom wall.

He first introduced me to Greek mythology by lending me one of his books.  I remember a picture of a hairy satyr with goat legs and horns, his arms wrapped around a muscular teenager who was playing a five-reeded flute. They were both naked. (I think it was this famous statue of Pan and Daphnis.)

One day Greg and I were watching Dark Shadows alone -- Bill was coming over later -- when suddenly he jumped up and ran into the bathroom. He returned with a bath towel tied around his neck like a cloak. He raised his arms like vampire claws and exclaimed “I am Barnabas Collins!"

"You'd better be!" I said.  "If my mom catches you with that towel, you're dead!"

"I am a vampire!" Greg continued.  "See my fangs?"  He opened his mouth to reveal sharp chiseled canines.

Fake fangs! I thought. He must have gotten them from the Dark Shadows game, which came with a set of "real' Barnabas fangs. But they looked real.

“If you’re a vampire, why can you go out in the daytime?” I said, trying to play along, but also somewhat disturbed. Part of me was wondering if Greg really could be a vampire.

“Barnabas goes out in the daytime!” Greg said in an impatient tone. Vampires aren’t magic! They just suck blood.” He flounced atop me and knelt on my lap. “I’m going to suck your blood right now!”

Before I could protest, Greg’s mouth was clamped down against my neck. I felt his lips, the hard plastic of the fangs, his tongue -- and shoved him roughly aside.  "Get lost, Spazz! If you suck my blood, we can’t be friends anymore.”

Pouting, Greg returned to his seat.  “Barnabas sucks Willie’s blood. It doesn’t hurt. It feels groovy – like a kiss!”

“Boys don’t kiss!”

“Sure they do. Like this.” Greg took out his fake fangs, leaned forward and kissed me briefly on the mouth.  It was cool and hard, but still exciting.  My heart was pounding.  My first kiss from a boy!

I pushed him aside and called him a Spazz again.

Apparently discouraged, Greg didn't try to kiss me again, though we continued to be friends until his family moved away, shortly after we visited A Little Bit O'Heaven in sixth grade.

And when I tried to kiss Bill, he always pulled away,  so I got his cheek.  I didn't succeed in kissing anyone on the mouth until junior high.

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