Wednesday, July 30, 2008

First Kiss

“I remember like it was only yesterday……” isn’t that how it’s supposed to start?
Strangely, it doesn’t. It starts with deep thoughts, ‘why can’t I remember?’ This might be because I am an older person, but those memories are supposed to stick, right?

I do remember a first kiss, but it wasn’t mine.

At five I was small, round, freckled and ever so slightly dim. I knew I was dim because my girls only, white segregated Elementary school’s teacher, told me so. Since teachers are the font of all knowledge, I knew it must be true.

Fortunately I also knew that I had little pockets of knowledge hidden away, like how to make a Chameleons explode, where to find the fattest tadpoles and how to walk on the top of walls without falling off, often.

There were others things I knew too, like if you weren’t careful with the bread knife you could turn the loaf red, that it was easy to wriggle through a window if you were locked out, accidentally and that girl’s bodies were different from boy’s bodies. My parents were not nudists but neither were they prudes. I knew the difference, of both.

I knew when he approached the chicken wire fence at the back of the school. Play time for 25 unsupervised minutes in the scruffy yard. It was 1965 when children were occasionally seen, but very rarely heard. He didn’t have shifty eyes but he was definitely sheepish, cautious and soft spoken.

He waved to us, beckoned, the universal come hither and we flocked. The candy was a nice touch, a worldwide language of friendship without translation. His English was broken, but more than good enough. His sarong dropped to his ankles, a yellow and orange patterned cotton, slightly soiled on that very hot day in Cape Town, at the foot of Table Mountain, in South Africa.

His image is imprinted on the inside of my skull He pressed his body against the fence with his skinny chicken arms hanging over the top spikes and his equipment through one of the wire diamonds. I stopped watching him. I looked around at my friends. I looked at their faces. No-one was talking. Silent four and five year olds in rose coloured frocks with crispy white collars and buttons. By now I was bored. I wanted to go away and play, but no-one moved. “D’ya wanta com an stroker snake?” he cooed. Statues, every one. Silence and the smell of dried grass. A girl took a step forward, tentative, with an out stretched arm topped with tiny little finger nails, freshly scrubbed. I watched mesmerized.

Surely she wouldn’t?

Surely she couldn’t?

Didn’t she know?

“If yur his frien, ya can kiss im.”

I wanted to shout but what to shout? No-one else was shouting. As she bent down with a pout I shoved her over, sideways. She yelled, did she ever yell, was she ever loud.

When the teacher arrived we were a gaggle of incoherent girls covered in tears, a great deal of snot, a grazed knee and the man was gone. The teacher, never a very happy woman at the best of times, was even less happy than usual at our disgraceful but unspecified behaviour.

I thought about that man as I wrote my lines:-
‘I will not be unkind to other pupils,’ or something like that, as it’s such a long time ago.

As I wrote with a crampt, pudgy hand, I thought:- ‘adults are so deeply dim, indeed!’


Trixie said...


Luckily you weren't that dim after all!

Osh said...


not where I expected this to go

Anonymous said...


These days you would have every mama in the town trying to hunt him down, posting fliers, etc.

That story read like it should have been in a crime novel, not part of your life.

Whitenoise said...


Linda said...

What a horrible thing to remember as a first kiss story. That man should have been hung up by his snake until he didn't bother any little girls anymore.

Good for you for saving the day even if that teacher was too dim to realize it!

The Anti-Wife said...

Your instincts were spot on. Well done even if you did get punished for it.

lime said...

oh maddy, adults are so horrifyingly dim sometimes. so glad you were brighter than everyone else involved.

Joker The Lurcher said...

so many of us were exposed (pun unintentional) to this sort of thing. its good to write about it - makes it seem more 'normal' than we felt it is.

Brillig said...

"I will not be unkind to other pupils." I'm SO glad you were "unkind." DISGUSTING that you girls had to deal with such a horrid moment!!!!

Kateastrophe said...

Woah! I will never understand what makes men do horrid things like that.

Your writing is fabulous. Thank you for sharing this.

ElizabethSheryl said...

Terrible story, but very well written. I'm so glad you took the initiative to stop what made you uncomfortable..that girl probably thanks you to this day.

Jenn in Holland said...

Fabulously written. What an awful experience at such a tender age. Oh, let's be honest, what an awful experience at any age!
Though the subject is rough to read, your writing is compelling and I am well impressed with your story telling.

charrette said...

Horrifying. What a story...
That was very brave of you to push the other girl away.

zzzhulh! makes me shudder!

Shellie said...

You were most definitely never dim, but I know a teacher who was. Thank goodness you stopped the madness.

Upstatemomof3 said...

You were obviously not dim at all!! You did exactly the right thing and I am horrified that you wen through that.

All Rileyed Up said...

Wow. That's quite a memory. Good for you for shoving your friend.