I could feel the pool of sweat running off of his palm into mine. The feel of it was horrible, all sticky and wet, oh so horribly wet. There was a slight odor of sour milk and raw eggs that I’m sure only reached my nose. I wanted to let go, to wipe off my hand and return it to my lap, to watch the enormous flashy picture and let my thoughts be drowned out in the vibrations that filled the theater.
I wasn’t allowed to remove my hand, and so it continued to produce and receive drips of salty, sticky, glucose-filled water. It’s not like anyone was holding a gun to my head. If I had released it for a second the world wouldn’t have ended. It was just wrong. The social taboos of middle school dictated that I had to keep my hand firmly melded with him, no matter how uncomfortable it made me. I was not allowed to let go for a minute, even to wipe our mutual sweat-puddle off.
There were a few exceptions in which I was allowed to let go, like to apply lip gloss or re-position myself closer to him, and other such excuses that entailed very feminine things. They could not all be used within the same movie, even if they were all valid excuses, for fear that the boy might get the wrong idea and think I didn’t like him. I could hear Amit and Libby whispering in my ear. “You do like him, don’t you Kristen? You do want a boyfriend? It’s high time you got a boyfriend.” When I got home I would have to call them both and relay the number of times I let go, how many times he squeezed my hand “You have to keep track Kristen, otherwise we won’t know how much he likes you. And if you don’t keep count you don’t really like him.” They would inquire things about the movie, which they had both seen twice, I’m sure, to see how much I had paid attention. They would ask how he reacted when the main characters kissed, or when the boy lost his dog, or whatever the moving moment was for them.
This confused me; I thought we weren’t supposed to pay attention to the movie. I thought that the movie was a disguise for middle-school couples to do cool high school things. Amit once bragged that her and Jim Borell, James Watson Borell III to be exact, once didn’t see anything but the first half of the previews. When I asked her what they had been doing she laughed. “Oh Kristen, you know, stuff.” I later learned from Libby that she had been lying.
He leaned over to kiss me. I was trying to figure out how to get my hands away long enough to wipe off the sticky pool that would just be replaced with a fresh one. The next second I saw him coming at me and quickly let go of his hand and reached into my purse to retrieve lip-gloss. I quickly realized this was the wrong thing to do. He would be getting the wrong idea, which was supposed to be the right idea, which was the whole reason I was sitting in this theater watching lord knows what movie with a boy that I supposedly liked.
Lip-gloss meant lips. Lips were for kissing. Not talking or chewing or laughing or biting down on when you made a bad joke or had burped, but for kissing. “Boys don’t like to see you eat. Don’t get popcorn or M&M’s and certainly not Junior Mints. A Pepsi is OK, you will need something to keep your lips wet.” I couldn’t dig through my purse for anything else; there was nothing else in there. I hated purses. I usually kept my wallet in my back pocket, like my dad. If I didn’t fit it into my pockets I didn’t need it. I put the lip-gloss on and returned my hand to his.
There was a wrenching starting from the inside that made me want to puke. I made myself go numb. His hand brushed against my stomach. Somehow it had ended up under my black baggy Metallica shirt. The room was spinning, and the noise was deafening. I started to slowly count backwards from twenty, the way I always did when the bad feelings came. A saccharin smile must have been spread upon my face, as the next day he said I had enjoyed myself when we were at the movies, before I got sick.
I guess one could say I got sick. I don’t remember throwing up, but I remember the nausea that comes before it. I remember excusing myself to the bathroom muttering something about the fact that my mother couldn’t cook. I don’t know how long had passed before I did this, or how long I was in there. He had expressed concern for me when I came back, and I told him I had thrown up. He didn’t want to kiss me after that, but apparently I was well enough to let his hands back up my shirt. I felt myself getting cold, blocking out the sensation. I think I muttered something about it feeling good. I don’t know how it could have, there wasn’t much there.
When I got home there was a message from Amit. I called Libby instead. I explained how I didn’t think I was cut out for this boyfriend thing, and I didn’t know how to break it to the third musketeer. Libby said it was OK, since school would be starting soon and I would have other opportunities. I guess she didn’t understand that it wasn’t him, and that it was me.
I cried myself to sleep that night. I didn’t understand why. He hadn’t done anything wrong; he did what we were supposed to be doing. He didn’t know that I was upset, that I felt sick at what he was doing not because of what he was doing, but of what someone else had done. I promptly broke up with him a week later. My excuse was because he lived a half an hour away, and I “couldn’t bear to be so far apart from him for such lengths of time.”
It was another year before I let another boy kiss me. It was OK. He didn’t put his hands anywhere on my skin, and it made me feel a lot better, though I was not completely comfortable. He asked if I wanted to go to the movies with him, and I declined. Like so many others to follow, he thought I didn’t like him. The truth is, to this day, I will not even hold hands with anyone in a movie theater.