Without planning to be, I was prompted on the topic of “firsts” by this intriguing post by a dear friend.
When the phrase “swimming in guilt” originated, I reckon it was a mild sort of guilt. A regret that was thin and unveiled, that went away by morning, could be washed down by a glass of orange juice and a piece of toast, maybe. Because I’ve tortured myself with guilt in years past, and it doesn’t feel the first thing like swimming. It’s handicapping, pinning my arms to the sides of my ribcage, making the air thick and immobile around me. Surfaces and things that were once sure are slippery and slimy, thick with distrust, every inch of my body is filthy, untouchable. It’s not swimmy, this guilt business. It’s thick and slow to go.
A lot of my “firsts” were stuck in this mess. I gave away when I should have held tight. Pretended I was seasoned and wise, when I was young and fresh and new. And I knew very little, in fact. But I could spin a lie better than any gal I knew. I spun beautiful webs of them. Miles and miles of lies. And inside those intricate highways systems, I gave myself away. Mostly to men whose names I didn’t know. Varsity football players, coaches on college visits, fraternity presidents, policemen, my friends, men who were no one.
There’s hardly a first I remember. But I swam, slimed, unwove, disengaged myself from that guilt some years ago. A nod to counseling, which I formerly didn’t believe in—whatever that means.
But this song doesn’t have to be in Dminor. There’s a future for all those failed firsts. There are firsts that are worth it. Firsts that have never met guilt, who don’t sign up for counseling. Firsts which have a gal catching her breath for days. I’ll tell you about this, her first.
For years she was in love with a man. And if I told you the whole truth about her story, you wouldn’t believe me. So I’ll just tell you this, which is a slice of the truth that you might accept even though life is not a fairytale and neither is this. Since she met him, there hasn’t been anyone else. Not another man, not a thought of one with any permanency or any stay. Just a flood of him, thoughts on how to be with him one day.
Now, there’s never really been what they would call an us, or a they to this gal and this man, but nevermind that for now. Suspend your disbelief. Because, there was, however, a time when they spent all their moments together. Over a year, maybe. And this, for them, was their they. She’d never kissed him. I can count the times she’d held his hand, she told me every time. I remembered them all except maybe the one I don’t remember. And I watched her love for him grow. And her desire. But there never was a first time for them. And then he moved away.
Months passed. Close to a year, when you do the math. She didn’t know what to expect when seeing him again. I didn’t know if she’d still love him when she stepped out of the airport and into his embrace. Would she step into his embrace? Or a handshake? Her body surged with heat as he scooped her up in the middle of winter; he told his friends he was picking up his girl. And he was. She was. By the night, her cheeks were sore from smiles. She’d come seven hundred miles to find that it was all the same. That her heart was still swollen with him from all their yesterdays.
She’d stayed already a full day and they’d taken to holding hands here and there. He had started it, which is the way it should be. At the piano bar, they settled in after dinner with her friends. I guess it was a double date. I suppose, when I think on her stories, she’s never been on one of those, so that was a first, for firsts.
She sat curled up in the corner, comfy, his arm around the back of the booth and around in a roundabout way, his girl. The scene, it feels ethereal, she remembers, because between songs, he leaned over her comfy curled body, locked into him like a puzzle piece, and stole the kiss right off her lips.
He left too fast, she leaned forward to linger. He came back and kissed again, uneven, mismatched, so that she could feel his five o’clock on her flesh. It was their first kiss. The man I’ve watched her love faithfully for over four years, she just kissed for the very. first. time.