I remember feeling embarrassed the first week of high school when I made friends with a girl who asked me if I had ever kissed someone before. She had done that and more, and I hadn't even held hands with a boy. I stumbled in not knowing what to say, my lack of experience gave me no threads of leading questions or statements about the matter.
"Oohh. That's cool."
Freshman year of high school was filled with naive bliss. You might be anxious about homework and socializing and figuring it out, but you have it pretty good. You’re young enough that you’re not supposed to have it figured out, and you’re old enough to start exploring with some half-assed independence (not necessarily doing a lot on your own, but doing whatever-it-is with friends instead of your parents).
Socializing is at the top of your priorities at all times and you have this unspoken "in it together" mentality with other freshmen. You’re figuring out what friends make you happy, what friendships feel fake, and how sometimes peers figuring out who they are is uncomfortable, and it can hurt your own feelings. You might experience some first-times, or wonder if you should be experiencing them. Eventually you realize it's only when you compare your timeline with others that you begin to question yourself; the thing is, you ultimately know your own self and know what you want and when.
You have crushes that you whisper about and make secret code names for but you would be mortified if your love interests ever knew. You sit next to each other, too nervous to even make eye contact or turn your head in their direction, but daring enough to sit next to each other - that's a sure sign of mutually liking one another. They makes an excuse to come talk to your friend about their Algebra homework to stand closer to you, and your heart flutters when you're in Spanish class and see their shaggy hair and awkward lanky pass by in the hallway.
I dated a junior boy my freshman year of high school. Baxley Thomas, 6’4” with shaggy and curly brown hair. He gave me my first kiss on the grass docks that had me running to soccer practice so I wouldn’t be late.
I remember it was a sunny Tuesday afternoon - we had a half day of classes each Tuesday with a break before afternoon sports began. One of his friends, Tim, was like a brother to me, so talking to him was an easy way to start talking to Baxter. The three of us sat cross legged on the warm stone sidewalk that fall afternoon until Tim excused himself, and I suddenly got sweaty palms.
I remember his breath smelled like the pasta we were served for lunch that day and his head cocked to the side as he smiled and said goodbye to me as I ran off to soccer practice.
I was the last to show up for practice, dropping my athletic bag in the pile with the others, I sprinted to join the warm-up lap. My sister, a senior captain, glared at me as she led the warm-up lap. In games, she was the first to chase down an opponent and knock them over if they messed with me, but in practice, I was the first to receive her sharp, direct feedback. So, on the warm-up lap I waved down my friend who was the only other freshman on the team, and whispered about what had just happened. We giggled in the back of the line with hunched backs and hands over our mouths in disbelief. The moment practice began, thoughts swirled in my head and I tried to focus on one pass at a time; I couldn’t wait for practice to be over so I could have a moment to breathe by myself.
After I broke up with him, my mom continued to play his stupid, hippie, cheesy, Valentine’s day CD in the car on our way to the grocery store. It made me so angry. I'd tell her I thought she liked Baxley more than I did, and would plead to switch the CD.
She'd say, “But I love Jason Mraz!”