Firsts Are Always Firsts
“I made you a mix tape,” said Liam. He pushed the cassette across the table to where she could reach it and pulled his hand back quickly.
“Where did you get it?” she said, hopping out of her seat and grabbing the tape. She immediately began inspecting every inch, pulling the tape out, fingering the crudely made liner notes.
“I had an old one that I taped over. It’s no big deal,” said Liam. “I put my address on the inside cover, too. In case you ever want to write to me.”
“I love it, Lee!” She looked around. “But I need to give you my address. I didn’t even think of that!”
“It’s OK, you have mine. You write first.”
She put the tape in her pocket. They were alone in the room. The adults were asleep. Liam suggested they play cards one last time.
This was when the world was larger, when endings were truly endings. No convergence was possible beyond the final page. Liam knew this instinctively, and so every movement became heightened, imbued with myriad possible meanings. What did that smile mean, that laugh, that space where a laugh was withheld? This was what he focused on, but it was a distraction from an ending. Things end: nights, summers, love. It’s a truth that is unknowable in the abstract, a truth that is understood only on the far shore of experience.
They played cards for some time. It could have been any night of the summer. It should have been.
“Lee, I really need to go back to my room. It’s so late.”
“Because it’s time for bed.”
“But maybe I’ll see you in the morning,” she lied.
They went outside where they were touched by Cape Cod sea air and tiny, floating particles of sand. They both paused again, standing not too close, not speaking yet.
“Well, good night,” Liam finally said.
“Good night,” she replied.
She moved to the right, he moved to the left.
Many years later this moment still existed for Liam, not frozen in time, but forever brilliantly warm and alive. He could see it so delicately that it scared him, as though remembering might somehow inadvertently alter the perfection and throw the memory’s authenticity into doubt.
They turned to face each other again. The beauty of a late-summer night on Cape Cod held them softly in an envelope, but even that beauty now faded into haze, leaving only the immediacy of the foreground. Liam bent forward; she did the same. Their faces tilted, naturally searching for the right angle. Electrons jumped the closing gap from lip to lip and back again. Without breathing, without knowing, they came together.
Years pass and so many things change, but firsts are always firsts, no matter how you tell the story.