My First Loves
We would gather on the lawn in front of the high school and read out loud from the erotica books we had stolen. We did this on our lunch breaks, on our spares, and the many times we would cut class.
We were misfits in that we didn't really belong to any other neatly formed clique. But we each represented a Stereotype... The Prep, The Hippy, The Goth, The Slut, The Nerd, The Artist, The Pothead. We were our own version of The Breakfast Club. None of the other groups in the school wanted us, but individually, we somehow fit.
Our routine included sitting on the curb where the school buses chugged exhaust, smoking our king-size Du Maurier's. It took 7 minutes to smoke a cigarette. Enough time to dramatize our lives before heading to the next class.
In winter we huddled together as close as we could, crawling inside each others coats, placing our bare hands over each others ears to keep them warm while we inhaled and shivered. In the summer, we sprawled out under the sun like lazy kittens, holding hands + exposing as much skin as possible, inhaling and shaking with teenage hormones.
We were oblivious to our power. We showed up how we wanted to show up. Sometimes barefooted, singing Janis Joplin, dropping acid. Often writing poetry about urges that were too dark and insidious for any other high-schooler to understand. We fully accepted the other as they were.
We were open in our sexuality. Some of us experimented without the labels. Friends became girlfriends became lovers became threesomes, and then foursomes, became soul mates.
Whatever direction society was going, we u-turned.
Prom was an excuse to show off just how little we didn't care what others thought. Riding the orange school bus while everyone else took limos their parents had paid for. Wearing vintage dresses while everyone else wore brand new things from Sears. No one asked us to be their date, so we dated each other. We hid rum and spliffs in our purses and got drunk in the parking lot.
A photographer offered the opportunity for couples to have their picture taken in front of some flowery prom display. My friend and I got in line and shuffled forward with our classmates. I sat on her lap and we glammed it up for the camera. Her in a gold, retro evening gown, me in an orange 70's bridesmaid dress. I can't remember which one of us suggested it, but we kissed for a long time and giggled and shook and were very aware of everyone's stares. We confirmed the rumors. The photographer cleared his throat uncomfortably.
We had enough money to purchase one 5x7 print. We chose the one of us kissing and shared it between us. Sometimes she kept it, sometimes I did. It was the most beautiful, innocent photo of two friends who deeply loved each other.
One time, while it was in my possession, a boy I was fucking promised that he could get a second copy made. I hesitated, but handed it over. I never saw him or the photo again.
The summer after prom, I met my first boyfriend. My other friends were meeting theirs. We were lucky enough to have partners who loved us for us, messy poetry, messy hair, messy everything. They loved us the way we loved each other.
I think about that photo often. Where it could have ended up. And those girls, who were my soulmates + sisters, and how we have all traveled in different directions. I wonder who each of them have become, and if any of them still smoke king size Du Maurier's.