I’m on my first date.
This would be a rather boring memory, except for the fact that I’m 8.
I am sitting in a movie theater with C.M., a boy from my second-grade class, who is 7 (I’m always older than the kids in my grade — the curse of a November birthday), and yes, all this time later, I actually do still remember his full name. But on the off chance he hasn’t died of crushing old age, I’m not writing it here — since for all I know, after his one date with me in childhood, he’s now a sociopathic stalker-slash-serial killer.
C.M.’s mother’s name is Debbie, a plump little woman — she’s only slightly taller than I am (and come to think of it, she was probably younger then than I am now) — with dyed-auburn hair, and she sits several rows behind us, allowing us to hold hands, which to my 8 year-old brain, is the equivalent of having anal sex on the altar of a church during Sunday services.
That is, it would have been, if I had known then what anal sex was.
Or a church.
The holding hands makes me feel scared, excited, ashamed — but more than anything else, really really grossed out, because it turns out C.M.’s hand is slimy and wet and — worse — smaller than mine, which makes me feel like the boy instead of the girl. (Which, in turn, makes me feel angry, confused, and yet also strangely thrilled — an omen of a future that holds a thoroughly ambivalent sexual-orientation.) It also makes me want to rub my hand against the leg of my jeans repeatedly while going, “Ick! Ew! Yuck! Bleearrgh!”, but even at the tender age of 8, I am savvy enough to realize that this will hurt C.M.’s feelings — and more importantly, that Debbie will never take us out on a date again if I shout, “Ick! Ew! Yuck! Bleearrgh!” at her son.
(Because as every girl knows, being taken out on a second date is even more important than going out on a first date, since if the boy asks you out on a second date, it means you’re not a complete social reject — which I was beginning to think [correctly, as it turned out] I would be turning into soon. Not that he’d asked me out on this first date, either — it was my idea, little tart that I was — holding hands in public? Junior Miss Whore! — but C.M. had seemed amenable, if not downright oblivious, and I’m pretty sure Debbie just wanted him to shut up for a couple hours. He was a bit of a motormouth [this was before ADHD had been invented]).
So there we sit, hands clasped, dripping sweat off the armrest onto the dead gum stuck to the theater floor.
It sounds like this: poik! poik! poik!
The movie we’re watching is called “The Dark Crystal,” and it’s about good guys called Gelflings and bad guys called Skeksis, and though my eyes never leave the screen, and somehow the story gets lodged in my brain, I am completely unaware of these things at the time. All I can think about is C.M.’s sweaty palm against mine, and how I wish he had bigger hands, or I had smaller ones, or that I had gone on this date with Billy Idol or the lead singer of Stray Cats. They would never have damp, slimy hands — I am convinced of this — and the hands themselves would definitely be bigger. (Not to mention more pedophilic. Thank god neither one of them showed up to profess his undying love for me, the way I kept hoping.) (Okay, still hope.)
When the movie is over, Debbie drives me home in their station wagon…
…and I don’t go on a date for another 6 years, as social-rejecthood slams into me like a careening semi- on black ice.
“The Dark Crystal” was on TV last night.
I watched it with The Finance — well, okay, actually The Finance fell asleep halfway through, god love ‘im for trying — though of course, the first thing I thought of when I saw the opening scene was C.M. and his tiny, sweaty palms.
Sometimes movies are more than just movies.
They’re keys to doors in our memory, allowing us to enter rooms long forgotten…
…though no less vivid and real as today.