My first kiss may have been on a sidewalk street block, somewhere with a lot of light. It was probably in the hood, my hood, old stomping grounds that remind you of home when your feet touch back down to earth after the first cycle. It was probably misunderstood, probably sloppy, probably involved fumbling, misplaced hands, slight sweat, early shadows of after school walks, early jaunts towards bodegas, pockets empty, looking at my girl, at the time, like, “we going half on these chips? On this sandwich?” Palms were itching from lack. We were so young, so barely out of middle school, so much of ourselves wrapped around our nimble little legs, too shy for a tongue, for a pressing of hard against soft, at least in theory; in the world of real, in the land of Bronx, you felt these things – you felt heat, sticky residue from Winter Fresh gum, the veins in the throbbing of muscle, cracking the binding of jeans, the skin of boxers, arousal peaking, looking for a zipper or a hole or something to put a hand in, on... inching towards the age of first’s.

The latter moment, the one involving an actual kiss, happened sort of like this scene – we were outside, maybe grabbing Tropical Fantasy’s or maybe Crooked Ides (the soft drink substitute to the Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube-endorsed malt liquor St. Ides, which Snoop would tell you in a commercial you could find “at ya’ neigh-ba-hood liqua sto’”), maybe Doodle O’s or Crunchy Cheese Doodles. There were other friends at the time but then they left, and it probably was just us two. It was probably sunny, it was probably after I walked her home, or between the time of walking her home, dick hard from imagining things I would wait for years to uncover. It was maybe freshman year in high school; it may have been yesterday, it could have been tomorrow.

Love at this age can feel like jaundice, can feel like dice rolling, or eyes being pulled out from sockets, sort of just left on laboratory tables to be tested, to be tried, to be true. The lead up to the love, to the kissing as an act of love, is a tight-rope, high-wire act, hands deftly searching for a place to put them, pulling and pushing mouth and tongue, lips to salt, salt and saliva, mixtures of the day, of sliding teeth, soft gums. The first one could feel like the first church bell, the first Jodeci album spun backwards, the intro into Video Music Box, in that way - different, colorful, a multitude of many a things, magnets to the the disarray of bodily fluids colliding. It always looks less awkward in movies, more glam, more Hollywood, more make-up. There is less hassle, less fuss. They be WAY too enthusiastic to get into it, building castles in each other when it happens. The first one, my first one, was sloppy as shit. It was my first, not hers. Looking back at us now, us still friends, her married, me not, me with a child, her not, me still in NYC, her not, her in church, me…a lot of in’s and out’s and whatever they may be’s. The after of it may have been dull or exciting, or both.

The college first kiss? The fiancé first kiss? The post-break-up-reconciliation-kiss? The first “during-sex” kiss? I have had far better kisses than the first, but maybe the first was in elementary school. Maybe it was in a hallway, or a dorm, or an apartment bedroom on someone’s couch with the plastic still intact. But maybe the better question is, when did it feel like a real kiss? I never practiced on my hand. I fake-practiced on other things: humping television screens, wanting to be erect like the movies I secretly watched when no one was home. Even the kissing I fake-did would involve a reckless side-to-side head swaying with loud noises, resembling nothing of the fumbling and finding of parts unknown in the actual doing of it I would find later.

That woman from the first kiss, whomever I think she is, whomever I thought she may have been, was a precursor to many first kisses – which one do you want the story of, most?

joel leon

dad & storyteller find him @joelakamag