After two years of lying to my friends about boys I hadn't ever really kissed, I first got my hands on one at the relatively ancient age of 14. He was French. His name was Maxi and he had big arm muscles (well, bigger than those of most 16-year-old boys I knew). A whole two years older than me, he wore faded blue jeans, white cotton T-shirts with the sleeves lobbed off and smoked the occasional illicit roll-up. He hung out on the grassy banks of the river with his gang of buddies. He wrote notes on torn-off, screwed-up pieces of paper. In French! He even had a guitar. I thought him the most glamorous and sophisticated thing I'd ever come across.
I'd known it was going to happen. His friend was my friend's big brother. Chinese whispers had been spread. Via various sets of eardrums, I had agreed to be Maxi's "girlfriend", so I knew that the kiss was inevitable. Inevitability is fine as long as there's no specific date set for it.
For a while we had skirted around the kiss. We chatted a bit on the phone. We spoke a great deal about each other to mutual friends. We met up occasionally, but only in large groups. He with his intense, riverside buddies and me with my gawky, pretty pals. The lot of us hung out, gazing foolishly at one another, our mooning backlit by the afternoon sun and any awkward silences obliterated by the sound of that marvellous guitar.
But all too soon he was there, in the room. At that moment. Not just a mention of him. Not merely a whisper from a friend who said her brother said Maxi said. No, he had arrived alone and in the flesh. It was time for direct interaction with Maxi himself. Two years can feel like a lifetime in certain contexts and seem to pass in the blink of an eye in others. At that particular point, the two-year age gap between us seemed tremendously significant. Those big arms of his suddenly infinitely more pronounced. He was older, wiser, and, crucially, I sensed, he knew exactly how this was all going to work, whereas I was utterly clueless, albeit desperate to impress him.
I can't recall our conversation. Perhaps there wasn't one. Either way it was unimportant. What there was, was a purpose. And had I not been preparing myself for it for years? Was the imminent fulfilment of that purpose not a situation I had long envisioned, and what's more, discussed at length with my girlfriends? Discussed at phone-bill-swelling, parental-eye-rolling, sisterly-derision-inducing length? Alas, all this preparation could not save me.
Ieyed him, standing there on the other side of the room. But he didn't stand still for long. It was about to happen. To steady myself, I placed both hands on either side of me on the table against which I was perched. He, conversely, stood taller. Began his approach.
He seemed to glide towards me in slow motion. All French and suave. I knew it wouldn't be his first kiss. Behind him, I could see that the door remained ajar. There was still a possibility of withholding the inevitable. I should make a dash for it. Run – stagger, rather – on legs about as solid as jelly, to the calm of any place outside that room. But I didn't. Couldn't.
The closer he came towards me, the more deliberately he appeared to be moving. Maxi inched nearer, ever slower. In fact, an act that must have lasted under a minute in total seemed to begin unfathomably slowly. Excruciatingly so. All sorts of deadly clichés sprang to life. Time stood still and all that. I held my breath. He was just seconds away.
I remember that moment of anticipation. Those agonising nerves. The bewilderment.
He was that close. Close enough that I could feel his breath on my face.
I saw a parting of lips. A ferocious flash in dark eyes. A sweeping of long eyelashes. A sweet smile. Then he made physical contact. And I remember that sensation. And the bewilderment again. And the total lack of enjoyment on my part (at first) because of the bewilderment. Then something else.
I began to relax. Started to get the hang of it. The point of it.
Then it was finished.
Next came relief and pride. Relief that I was no longer an inexperienced little girl, pride that I was now a woman (as I'd mistakenly concluded at the time). With hindsight, I was merely a woman-in-training. But with each clumsy meeting of lips I had begun to see the world differently. I felt that life was no longer something that happened to me but that I was an active participant in it. I felt a sort of confidence.
Aita Ighodaro's new book 'All That Glitters' (Corvus Books) is out now
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