The First Time and It Has Not Been the Same
John A. Roof
The first time it happened was with someone I liked in the sixth grade. Then a quick two week affair during my seventh grade summer vacation in East Liverpool, Ohio while staying with my Grandmother Bowman, it happened with the girl next door. Then it happened again in a torrid affair with a girl in the eighth grade that continued on and off, into my college years, with us ending up living together for a semester. This time it was different; it had a feel that I have only experienced once and all similar experiences before and since have been rated by this one, the first time. Too often we rate different experiences we have in our life on the bases of 1 to 10. This experience cannot be rated on that superficial rating system nor should any. Each life experience should be graded by its own merits.
It was a Saturday night and the summer vacation again was coming to a quick end. In one more week I was going to be a freshman in high school, that time in one's life when everyone is out trying to run your life and at the same time you are making great steps towards your own independence. That night a group of us from the neighborhood decided to go to the Pastime Theater. I don't recall what movie was showing at the theater but I have a vivid remembrance of that night. The group that summer was made up mostly of seventh and eighth graders. I was the oldest. As we walked to the theater we talked about school starting, teachers, and who not to get. Back then it was not being taken somewhere that was fun but the act of getting there, the exchange of ideas and experiences as we prepared for our life to come. This night would release a deep feeling from in my soul that would end my innocence and begin my adulthood. We each paid for our tickets that were fifty cents, got our drinks and found our seats. Janice and I sat at the end of the row. The show soon began with a cartoon, as all shows did then. After the cartoon ended I reached down and took her hand and held it though the movie. As I took her hand she turned and looked at me; her eyes looked as though tears would soon begin to roll down the white cheeks that had never seen make-up, her face was so pure.
This was the last summer I spent at home--all the following summers vacations were spent on the road or in some remote wilderness camp in the high country of New Mexico. I would return home at the end of the summer a few days before school would start. One year I left school a couple of days before summer vacation began. I never again felt the embrace of a summer night walk with friends and the pleasure of holding hands with a young beautiful innocence girl. At some point in life, you must cross a bridge leaving your youth and innocent behind.
The movie progressed. Janice and I leaned closer together enjoying the oneness that we shared between us. I remember thinking the theaters should make seats without armrests. My side was killing me having leaned against the armrest for the duration of the show. I turned and looked at Janice and watched her eyes as the light and movement of the movie were reflected in them. There came a smile to her face. She turned to see if I was enjoying the same moment in the movie and was surprised to see that I had been watching her instead of the movie. This pleased her--it showed in her face as she returned to the movie. I gently removed my hand from hers and put my arm around her shoulder. I leaned so that I interrupted her view of the movie and ever so gently kissed her. She received her first kiss with true grace of innocence. There was now a new knowledge that she was loved by someone other than her parents. I leaned back; her sister and Suzy Tatton another girl friend of theirs could not believe what they had witnessed. I had taken her innocence and before their eyes she became a young woman. This was her first kiss; it would not be her last nor would it be our last.
As we left the theater and began our walk home the other girls could talk of nothing else but the kiss. The boys who were with us acted as though they were indifferent, somewhat disappointed and betrayed for now they too realized that their bridge lay not far ahead. I stole one more kiss from Janice that night; it would be along time before I received another, maybe the next night. We remained together till I got restless and grew away from her, which is what boys do at that age. Janice was my first heartfelt love. I think back to that summer night and the young confused feelings that I experienced and I search my soul for the lost innocence. Wherever you are Janice a little of me is with you.