An excerpt from this story was read at McMaster University’s Writes of Spring event. I was invited by then writer-in-residence Christine Poutney to deliver the reading.

From the ages of 13-16 I was an incredibly awkward teenager who slouched, never exercised, masturbated a lot, and had zero confidence around women. No, I wasn’t one of those guys who would splutter whenever he tried to talk to a girl, but I wasn’t much better – when I did talk, my dialogue was inevitably lame, stupid, or otherwise unattractive. The following story takes place in the middle of this dreadful cycle. It is the story of my first kiss.

It begins on a gloomy, wet November night. Hunched over my computer, I received an unexpected MSN (yes, MSN) message. It was from a friend who I had known since elementary school, and she was inviting me to her high school’s semi-formal dance. We would meet at her house, she said, then go to the dance from there. Eager to escape the cramped confines of my Dorito-dust covered room, I accepted the invitation.

I had virtually zero experience with drinking, and so I was confused when I arrived at her house and she led me into the basement and I saw a group of snappily-dressed teens sharing a bottle of vodka. This, I realized, was something I had heard a lot about but never experienced: a ‘pre-drink.’ I shuffled into the room, wearing a shitty blue dress shirt that I had bought in eighth grade at the local Wal-Mart, and eyed the group curiously.

One of them was a delectable dark-haired damsel, hypnotic in a beet red dress, so I wanted to look outgoing and cool. To that end, I acquainted myself with the group and,  when they offered their vodka to me, drank some. My face reddened, my throat burned, and I hacked and flailed about wildly, coughing like a wildebeest. The girl did not look impressed. I rubbed my pimpled forehead with annoyance.

By the time we left for the dance most of the group was drunk. I, not willing to risk another coughing episode, hadn’t consumed anymore vodka, and was nursing only the smallest of buzzes. We piled into two cars – the parents of the girl who invited me drove us – and arrived at the dance ten minutes later.

I paid, blazed through coat-check, and entered the sweaty, cramped auditorium. The music was deafening. Intermittent flashing lights illuminated the crowd. Police officers lined the walls, arms folded, expressionlessly eyeing the pulsing mass of dancers. I apprehensively joined the rollicking congregation, conscious of my shabby attire and doughy figure.

For a while I hung around the group as we bobbed and jimmied to the rhythm of the music in an awkward circle. Eventually, though, group members began leaving for assorted reasons: they needed punch from the punch bowl, they got asked to dance, they saw someone they recognized. I was one of the last holdouts, but eventually I decided that, what the Hell, I had come all the way here – I should branch out. I turned to leave and, unexpectedly, found myself face-to-face with the hot girl.

We looked at each other for a couple of seconds. Steeling my bravado, I yelled over the music: “Wanna dance?”

Until this point, my only dancing experience had been that hilariously awkward slow stepping that happens at middle schools. You know what I’m talking about: the girl and guy stand at arm’s length, the girl’s hands on the guy’s shoulders and the guy’s (sweaty with excitement) hands on the girl’s waist. So when the hot girl nodded, affirming that yes, she would dance with me, I stuck out my arms expectantly. When she turned around and bent over and stuck her ass in my crotch and started twerking, I nearly fainted from the potent combination of surprise and exhilaration.

I was hard immediately, of course. That made me nervous because I knew she would be able to feel it. Would she think I was some sort of pervert? Apparently not – she kept going. I then realized I should probably be doing something other than standing still and watching her grind on my penis, so I put my arms in the air and waved them. A passerby looked at me, shook his head, and kept going. Two seconds later the hot girl rose and left without looking at me.

Meager self-confidence tempered, I entered the bathroom and splashed my face with water. I contemplated jerking off, because my pecker was still rock hard, but decided against it because of the constant flow of people coming and going. Instead, I conjured some horrifying images, such as ballerinas biting off my dick and naked old men whipping each other with towels and, once my penis was flaccid, went back in the auditorium. I drank some tasteless punch out of a white Styrofoam cup, then tentatively re-entered the dance floor.

An obligatory slow song began playing. I spotted another girl from the group at the pre-drink. She had pale blonde hair and she was thin with a slender face and she was about two inches shorter than me. Throwing caution to the wind, I asked her to dance. She said yes. We started the middle school dance – this I could handle. My hands were around her waist and her hands were on my shoulders. Her eyes were dancing drunkenly. She looked at me and smiled. I smiled back. She leaned in and kissed me on the lips.

It was a peculiar sensation – wet and fleshy. Not unpleasant though. The kiss lasted a few seconds. She broke it off and smiled at me. I leaned in towards her and kissed her again. That lasted another few seconds. We continued dancing until the song ended. I said thank you, and she left.

I strode around the dance floor. Holy shit, I remember thinking, that was my first kiss. This is insane! The night progressed and I danced with a couple of other girls, but nothing really remarkable happened. That didn’t matter, though, because I had kissed a girl. That was remarkable enough. When I eventually returned home and removed my shitty dress shirt and fell into bed, I slept soundly.