Xavier Walton's First Kiss, Page 2Phil Wohl
We were coming toward the end of the year and Mr. Martin seemed to be a bit more tolerant of chatting in the class. I couldn’t remember the last time I had spoken directly to a girl. In between a lot of phrases like “Excuse me” and “Thank you,” there was a huge gap of empty space.
Girls had turned really weird since the Jessica and Gary wedding. I think it would have been less stressful if they hadn’t kissed. The bar was set so high after that event that none of guys even had a chance.
I had my eye on this one girl, Karen Chaney, all year. She was nice and pretty and was the one girl in my class that would acknowledge that I was alive on occasion. Girls are excellent at ignoring guys and rarely give them any encouragement unless your name was Gary. He had every girl in the school waiting on his every word.
Losing all hope and being a social misfit was confusing. Of course it wasn’t as confusing as figuring out the girls I saw every day. They were so concerned with their appearances that you would have thought they were getting ready for a modeling photo shoot.
Back to the art class… Mr. Martin said, “The last 20 minutes of the class will be free sketch,” which meant that we could talk quietly and draw anything. I had nothing in my mind that I could transfer to paper, so I stared at Karen and dove into a heavy daydream.
About five minutes into my dream, which involved chocolate and a baseball game, Gary nudged me and said, “What are you looking at?” He knew I was staring at Karen, or at least the back of Karen’s head. I had been hooked ever since I had helped Karen off of the floor after she broke her arm. She was, by far, the nicest girl in the class. It was easy to be nice to her and want to spend time with her.
I thought this was the reason that guys and girls “went out” in the first place. Boy sees nice girl, nice girl smiles, and then boy asks her out. It seemed like a pretty simple process to me, at least at first.
Gary kept probing, “Hey X, do you like Karen?” My friends called me “X” because we all needed nicknames over our own boring names. Other guys had nicknames like “Hawk”, “D- Train”, “B-Rod”, and Gary’s nickname was “G Smooth.” It was cool to have nicknames but it wasn’t cool of Gary to call me out in the middle of class.
My face turned bright red as my embarrassment was just as obvious as my lack of artistic ability. I wished that Gary would have stopped the red-faced train at that point but he
seemed to yell “Full Steam Ahead!” when he said to Karen, “Hey Karen” – then Karen turned around – “Xavier likes you.”
Unfortunately for me, the floor of the classroom wasn’t dirt and I had no chance to dig a huge hole to jump into. I wound up deny my feelings out of sheer humiliation, because I lacked the nerve to go public.
I’m not sure what I was supposed to do in that situation. Gary definitely put me in a no-win situation, because Karen probably wouldn’t have “gone out” with me anyway. Anyone that wasn’t named Gary has little chance with the girls of Twin Lakes Elementary.
Karen barely talked to me again after that day, which removed the one girl I could somewhat feel comfortable talking to. That afternoon also signaled the end of my relationship with the kissing bandit, Gary Brown. Friend’s stick together they don’t pull each other apart.
Summer Leavin’ I
I had spent much of my summer life in day camp and had become sort of used to the idea of playing during the day and going home to sleep at night. This reliance on home as a base gave me a security blanket and my parents in my daily life.
When my parents came to me with the idea to go to sleep-away camp, I did what any soft guy would do: I said “No.” My mom seemed pleased by my decision, which made me feel like I was 11 going on five. My lack of social progress was starting to get on my nerves and it was time to do something about it.
Saying that I was brave those first few days of camp would be like looking at a giraffe and exclaiming, “Your neck isn’t that long!” I’m not really sure why I cried my eyes out like a little baby with a dirty diaper. Maybe it was separation anxiety, or maybe I was just scared to be out on my own.
There’s a difference between being independent and lonely – independence means that you are able to do your own thing whether loved one’s are around, or not – independent people might get the job done but that doesn’t mean that they
aren’t lonely. I was trying to live without my parents but I was far from lonely being around all those kids my age at camp.
After three days of moping around and missing being home, I started to focus more on where I was than where I thought I should be. I had ten guys in my bunk and only Ralph Peters and I were first time campers. Ralphie was a walking allergy and I was constantly planning his day around his vast collection of pills, tissues, and inhalers. The guy had an excuse for sitting out of almost every activity. The one thing he did like was archery – he loved to shoot arrows into the middle of targets, which made us all back of him a bit out of fear that we would one day wear the dreaded bull’s eye.
By the middle of the summer, I was every bit the seasoned camper. After all, being at camp wasn’t exactly roughing it – three full meals, plus frequent canteen stops, all of our clothes were cleaned every other day, and you had a built-in group of friends that you lived with.
The other thing that I had to get used to was living with other people in the same room. At home I had my own room with a door, but at camp I shared a cabin with nine other guys
and two counselors. I also took the bottom of a bunk bed out of fear that my tossing and turning would send me crashing to the floor in the middle of the night.
I was definitely a follower that first summer at sleep- away camp. Most of the other guys seemed to have a handle on the whole process, but I was trying to simply tread water. The camp was constructed in a smart manner: the boy’s camp was on one side and the girl’s bunks were more than a mile away on the other side of the camp.
One night the guys in my bunk were restless and called for a raid on one of the girl’s bunks. They called it a “panty raid” and got a bunch of flashlights together for their mad dash. I’m not the kind of person that takes stupid chances and I definitely had no interest in either touching or removing a girl’s underwear.
There must have been at least five people patrolling the grounds between our bunk and the girl’s bunks. The odds were as slim as winning the lottery that a bunch of gangly 11 year- olds with flashlights wouldn’t get caught. Besides, once I lie
down in bed, I’m about as active as kids watching SpongeBob
I went to sleep the minute those guys left the bunk and never gave it another thought. In fact, I wasn’t the only guy that decided to stay back. Out of the seven of us who chickened out, I was the wise guy who said, “You guys go ahead. I’ll stay here and watch the bunk.” I must have been watching the bunk from the inside of my eyelids because I was dreaming way before those guys were caught by the second wave of guards.
There was no raid at all that night; the five guys were caught and had to empty all of the garbage cans that night – yeah, all of the garbage cans on the boy’s side of camp.
The guys who went on the “panty raid” that night were the same bunch that was really interested in girls. They obviously matured faster than the rest of us and had become about as crazy as the girls. What a giggling, voice-changing, secret-telling, sweaty mess life was becoming!
I came as close to the girls that summer than I did to eating a piece of broccoli. Not really fond of the green stalks
of nausea, and I felt the same way about the girls. Life was so much simpler because there was no chance that I would dance or speak to a girl.
We had at least one dance or social a week at camp. You would have thought the room was separated by a line of fire the way we avoided the girls. Even the cooler guys stayed on the boy’s side, waiting for the counselors to break the ice. By the end of the summer a few of o
ur guys had broken free and were dancing and talking to a few of the girls. For me, it was still the longest two hours of any day.
I must admit that I was ready to go home when my parents came to pick me up. Seven weeks were a long time for a kid that had never been away from home before. There were days and nights I could have used a break from the camp grind, but I was glad to stick it out until the end. Next year would be even better!
Summer Leavin’ II
A year made a huge difference in my life. Being in middle school pushed me to grow up about as quickly as going away for camp the previous summer. Seeing teenagers around me smoking, holding hands, and kissing definitely made me stand up a notice that I wasn’t a kid anymore.
I made a few attempts at communicating with girls in sixth grade but I was still feeling about as uneasy as a mouse at a cat show. Passing notes was my method and many girls appreciated my effort. Maybe they also weren’t ready to take the big leap toward face-to-face conversation? All I know is that it was still hard to find the words to start a conversation.
I asked a few girls out and one girl, Kathy Aston, actually said yes. Of course, asking her out by talking was not going to happen, so I reverted to the pen and a piece of loose-leaf paper. Simply written, “Will you go out with me?” was countered with an even simpler, “Yes.” I was pretty happy when I read the nicely adorned word “Yes” but then became instantly confused. What does “going out” really mean? Why are we expected to go? I realize that “out” is the targeted destination, but where is that specifically?
Kathy was a nice girl but she was developing a lot faster than most of the girls. She needed a more mature boy than me
– I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or should have been doing. A few of my friends told me that the relationship wouldn’t even last a week. I folded under the pressure and broke up with her after six days of sweaty confusion.
The day after I let Kathy go, I felt bad for her and we were a couple again. I saw the sad look on her face and caught up with her in the hall after our math class:
“I don’t know why I did that yesterday. I’m sorry,” I said to start the conversation.
She replied, “Oh, that’s all right. Was it something I did?” I looked up at the ceiling, hoping the answer to her
question would come to me, “My friends…
I must have been mumbling because she said, What?”
I quickly moved off the friends excuse and said, “I just made a stupid mistake.”
“Does this mean we’re going out again? She inquired. “Yeah, sure” I said with a smile.
She hugged me and then walked away. I felt good about it for a split second and then wondered why I decided to dive back into the deep end of the pool? Did I need to worry more about my life? Now that we were going out again, what would I be expected to do? I was in the clear… what a complete and total dunce!
Yeah, I wasn’t happy with myself back then. My relationship with Kathy didn’t get any easier as time marched on. A month later she broke up with me, seemingly just to get even, and then she took me back the next day. When I saw Kathy walking down the hallway with new friend Claudia Borelli, I knew my days with her were coming to an end.
Claudia Borelli was a notorious boy hater – she could often be seen chasing and beating any guy who got in her way on the playground. Kathy came up to me on the playground with Claudia by her side – the sight of Claudia standing so close to me almost caused me to start running, but I knew my lack of speed and her boiling anger was a bad combination. Kathy had a snotty look on her face as she said, “You’re dismissed,
Walton.” They laughed, walked away, and Claudia looked back and said, “X marks the spot, loser!”
That was brutal but I was glad to have my first relationship over, even though I was a loser for not trusting my instincts. I stayed pretty quiet on the “going out” for the remainder of the year, preferring to observe others instead of embarrassing myself any further.
My mother had signed me up for camp again, but this time I had asked her “Can I go back to Birch Lake?” I thought that “Last summer I didn’t really know what to expect, but this summer I would go back and take more chances and be more confident around girls.” It sounded pretty good in my head. It’s a lot easier to be brave before you actually are in the middle of something. Confident thoughts often turn into bowls of much once the real action begins.
When we arrived at camp that summer, I was with my friends and walking away from my parents within a few minutes of our arrival. I’m sure my mom felt a bit slighted by my lack of clinging, but it all felt much more comfortable and natural at camp this time around.
There were three guys from my previous summer’s bunk and I knew another five guys. What a difference a year had made. My parents went to the bathroom and then made a quick exit. At first I thought they were upset, but seeing their smiling faces jet out of the parking lot told me that they were excited to have the house to themselves for a change.
12 year-old boys are a lot different than 11 year-old boys if you haven’t noticed. On the flip side, 12 year-old girls are also an improvement over the previous year’s model.
That first night at dinner set the tone for the whole summer. I was confident that I had learned from my mistakes over the past year and was ready to take the next step. What that next step was, I wasn’t really sure but I was going to take it!
The boy’s tables in the mess hall were on the right side and the girl’s tables were on the left. We had a good view of the 12 year-old girls and were struck by how different they looked from the previous year. Roughly translated: we were all scared of the terror that awaited us.
The bunk was really quiet that first night until our counselor, Paul Terry, gave new kid Adam Feldman, an atomic wedgie. The sound of that kid’s underwear ripping was music to everyone’s ears and even gave Feldman an immediate nickname. While Paul had Adam off of the ground, he laughed and put his arms out like a flying Superman. “Superman” it was—good fortune for Feldman.
Bunk 12 Rules!
That’s right, we bad! Our camp bunk, which was in line with most of our ages, was number 12. We totally ruled the boy’s side of camp because we were the oldest all-summer bunch. There were some older kids but they traveled most of the summer and camped out more than they slept inside.
By the time you hit 14 or 15 year-old the CIT, or Counselor in Training, program kicks in. The pay was slightly more than a few dollars but the benefit of being at camp and not paying was great.
My best friends in the bunk were Bruce Simon and Mark Preston. Bruce, or Bruiser as he was called, was anything but a physical specimen. The guy was about 90 pounds with a wet set of clothes but he was the smartest kid I had ever met. Mark, on the other hand, was definitely the muscle part of our trio. His nickname was Press and you would have been hard pressed to find a more forceful 12 year-old.
How did I fit in with Bruiser and Press? In between brains and brawn was a large region of stuff. I was the idea man that needed brains to further execute my plans – having a strong guy around kept other kids from teasing me all of the time. Kids tease and test each other so much that it’s a wonder that we make it through puberty. My dad tells me that adults do the same thing to each other, so that gives me a lot to like forward to.
I’m a decent looking guy by most middle school standards. Of course, I’m no Gary Brown but who really is? My hair is brown and my eyes are brown – no blonde-haired, blue-eyed surfer dude here. I am definitely one of the taller guys in my age group, although there is a guy named Maurice Albert that
casts a shadow over most of the students and teachers. As nicknames go, seeing the 200-pound Maurice rumble through the hallway made “Fat Albert” an easy call.
While there were no “Fat Albert’s” in camp, we had a few kids that liked to snack a little more than normal. This one kid i
n our bunk named Jake Norman used to get boxes full of candy and cookies from his mom each week. There were weeks when the junk food would arrive a few times, but the counselors were quick to spread the wealth around to the rest of us starving children.
Jake was a chubby kid by most standards, but it was his lack of hygiene that made him so offensive to be around. The guy smelled like onions and garlic even though we rarely ate any of that stuff. His mother must have packed some garlic deodorant and onion soap because, dude, the kid really smelled. We tried giving him subtle hints, like putting bars of soap in his cubby and hanging air freshener near his bed. He was like that kid in Peanuts with the dirt cloud surrounding him wherever he walked, so we nicknamed him “Pig Pen.”
Bunk 12 was so strong because every guy had a role and a purpose. With Bruiser, me, and Press steering the ship, it was up to guys like 360, Blinky, Specs, Roo, and Bug to complete our master plans.
James Hawk was the cousin of skateboard legend Tony Hawk, and it was obvious that the talent was passed through the family. Hawk could spin and spin on his skateboard and he never got dizzy. I think watching him made people dizzier than
360 felt while circling around.
We had one kid in the bunk that would get a little freaky when he felt pressure. After seeing his parents yell at each other and their only kid, Bryce Thomas, for the entire Parents Weekend, it was no small wonder that Blinky would freeze under pressure. If you needed a stalling tactic then the Blinkmeister was your guy.
Chester Young wore girl’s glasses – there I said it. His mother must have taken him to get glasses because she wore these thick, magnifying kind-of-glasses. I’m sure the person behind the counter must have been confused when they slid the red frames on Chester’s nose. Specs was always an obvious