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Chasing Down Kisses

November 4, 2011

One of the backdrops to Operation Kiss.

The height of my promiscuity was when I was seven years old.  I was in the second grade, I couldn’t yet spell the word ‘pizza’ correctly (thought it was with one ‘z’, no joke) and I wore my overalls with rakish aplomb. And I had a crush. I had it bad. He was perfect.

His name was Afton.  Afton was a small kid, with nut brown hair and huge, limpid, chocolaty eyes.  His chubby chipmunk cheeks were utterly adorable. He was painfully shy, but his laugh was infectious. His mom packed him really delicious looking lunches, wrapped in tinfoil. He liked crusts on his bread. I dug that. We were meant to be.

It was too bad that Afton didn’t seem to feel the same way. Whenever I tried to offer him my fries at the lunch table (and french fries had high social value!) he’d say that he wasn’t allowed to eat potatoes. When I tried to talk to him about Hawaiian history, he would mumble something about liking math and go to sharpen his pencil. And when I tried to hold his hand at the planetarium, just after we were safely ensconced in the dark, he gave a little scream that embarrassed both of us.

But I was persistent. Deep, deep down in a way I couldn’t articulate, I knew that we had something between us, a connection. I felt it when both our pastel drawings of animals were nominated for prizes by the local newspaper and our gazes met and were exuberant. I felt it when I saw him look out the window at the rain coming down in sheets and smile. And though he was rebuffing me, I attributed it to his shyness. He was afraid of letting people know how felt about me, afraid of what they’d say. And that’s when I developed the perfect plan.

I have to admit to being more of a doer then a planner during those tender and early years. But even if I had thought it through, the phrase ‘sexual harassment’ is not one traditionally taught to small children.

And so, on one bright afternoon during recess, I put Operation Kiss into action. I had just 30 minutes to accomplish my mission, and it was an involved one.

The first few boys were easy. They didn’t even see it coming. All I had to do was run up to them, grab their arm to steady myself from being off balance, and plant a quick smack on their lips. I did the first three almost as a bundle, careening from the first to the next to the next. It was only as I ran off to find more boys on the playground that one of them thought to yell, “Hey! You kissed me!”

It kinda looked something like this.

By the eighth boy and the fourteenth minute into recess, they were on to me. They ran from me like rats from a dying ship, screaming lustily that I was spreading girl cooties. Boys climbed to the heights of the jungle gym and jumped off just as I was about to reach them. One boy decided to hide in boy’s bathroom, thinking I wouldn’t be brave enough to follow him in. I followed him in and he surrendered quietly, closing his eyes and standing still as I swept my lips over his and departed. Another boy, quite a Casanova for a seven-year-old, sought me out and demanded that I kiss him, too. He wasn’t in my class, and therefore not on my list, but to make it even safer for Afton to like me, he got a peck.

Despite my successes, I was behind my kiss-one-boy per-minute goal and beginning to get desperate. There were still four boys left to kiss, including the important one. I had originally planned to leave Afton till last. Now, as I began to get stitches in my side from running after boy number eleven, an obnoxious red-head who should be thrilled that one such as I was even trying to kiss him, I saw Afton out of corner of eye. He was running towards the school’s entrance. It was time. I couldn’t afford to wait any longer. Hopefully shy little Afton would feel that his secret love for me was well enough hidden to finally let me kiss him.

I stopped chasing the red-head and changed direction. “Hey!” he called after me, as I pelted towards the blacktop and my eternal crush, “Don’t you want to kiss me anymore? I’ll slow down!”

Love gave my feet wings, and I practically flew down the hill. There he was, just a little in front of me. His converse sneakers skidded slightly on the blacktop surface as he stopped running and stood, his hand on the handle of the door leading into the school hallway. He paused and looked back at me.

“Afton,” I wheezed romantically, my heart thudding hard in my chest. “Wait?” I outstretched my hand.

He turned and fled inside.

I waited there a moment, hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath. Little tears stung at the inside corners of my eyelids. The one boy I actually wanted to kiss wouldn’t let me catch him. All that work. Wasted on someone who didn’t want me. I had to finally admit it. I straightened up, rubbed a filthy arm across my nose and sniffled. And so it was with red eyes and clear mucus smeared on my arm that Afton saw me next.

“Afton! You came back for me!” I gave him a watery smile. But that was when I noticed my teacher, Mrs. K standing behind him.

What happened next was predictable. My teacher told me that kissing boys was not appropriate behavior, especially when they didn’t want to be kissed. I cried a little and promised never kiss a boy again. Recess ended and the class filed in. The boys were boisterous and seemed to mainly agree that it had been an excellent recess indeed; running away from a girl turned out to be just as much fun as running after one. Afton sat quietly at his desk, refusing to look at me. I had to stare at the back of his head the rest of class like usual, but unlike usual, this did not make me happy. When the bell rang for the end of the day, I fled the classroom.

I never did manage to steal that kiss from Afton. The peak of our romance happened a year later, when he told me that he was wished I wasn’t going to be transferred out of his third grade class for another. And that was pretty much it. Only he knows for certain if he ever felt anything for me at all, besides the abject terror inspired by Operation Kiss.

I guess I did come on a little strong.

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