He was my first kiss. He was tall and lean and blonde. He didn’t look like the other guys in El Paso, Texas. He looked like he should be on a surfboard or a beach somewhere in California.
He was my best friend’s brother and I had known him since eighth grade. He was four years older than us and for years, we considered him a pest. Until one day, I didn’t.
I spent most of my free time at my best friend’s house. She had a pool and a fridge full of snacks. They had a microwave—a luxury that was not yet available in our double-wide trailer—and a VCR. We watched “Weird Science” and “Labyrinth” and “Princess Bride” until we could quote them word-for-word, our re-enactments often punctuated by the “zzzttt” of the hanging mosquito zapper right outside the den window.
When I was 16, we went on a double date with my best friend and her boyfriend to a drive-in movie. I think it was called the Fiesta, and it was way out on Montana Avenue (although, the only Fiesta I find now shows an altogether different type of movie these days, so I might have the name of the place wrong.) It was a long, dusty desert drive, with few houses and almost no businesses. The stars were bright pinpricks.
I don’t remember what the movie was. Since it was the summer of 1988, it was probably “Die Hard” or “Rain Man.” Apparently, 1988 was a great summer for movies.
We were drinking wine coolers and he had his arm around my shoulders. My stomach was nothing but knots while I tried to keep my breathing normal. When I’d finished my wine cooler, he offered me a sip of his. Then he laid his line on me: “Wet your whistle? Here, let me.” And he bent in for a kiss.
To this day, cheesy though it is, I still think that’s about the smoothest thing I’ve ever heard.
Not surprisingly, we didn’t go out again. It was too weird. We were too close. More like brother and sister. I’m sure he let me down gently and I probably pined for a little while, but soon there were other crushes to distract me.
He moved on with his life. I moved on with mine. I lost touch with my high school best friend as college and marriages and children and careers moved us further and further apart, both emotionally and geographically.
I learned this weekend from a high school friend that my best friend’s brother had died, apparently taking his own life. He was only 44. I don’t know why, nor does it matter. I have no idea what had happened to him over the years to put him in that dark place. But just hearing the news sent me spiraling back to a warm, West Texas summer night sipping wine coolers on a warm car hood under the glow of a large screen and a million stars and the softest lips touching mine.