The school was divided into three parts, each section with a different color theme, and I remember we were near the green lockers, not where my locker was.
He had to open mine for me because I could not remember how to do the combination.
How is it that I forgot the combination so often? I remember turning it as if dialing an old-fashioned phone in a dream — do you have those? I dream that I cannot turn the dial all the way, that it slips, is too heavy for my finger, that the wrong number is dialed because I failed to make the connection properly, because the pressure of my finger was not enough.
Over on the other side of the building, where the lockers were yellow, he did not kiss me, because his mother worked at the high school, and her office was too close by. He never kissed me in the red section, where the library was, the hub of the building, because we never seemed to stop there anyway.
But in the green section, he pressed me against the locker and kissed me.
We were, not surprisingly, observed. Being away from the yellow section was not enough protection, and the green wing of the building provided no camouflage for our use of the precious three minutes, the three minutes in which he assured me of his affection by paying attention to me.
(Hear the refrain, it was still in my head, adjusted only slightly: “He must love me, he wouldn’t do this if he didn’t love me. It’s good to have a boy love me.”)
The biology teacher, I think, told his mother, and she called my mother, and he got a lecture about Public Display of Affection and, I think, a manly wink from his dad as if to say “You’ve got to please your mother, son, and not embarrass her, or it’s trouble for both of us.”
I got a dressing-down about being unvirtuous. My mother pressed home her point. It was the girl’s responsibility to keep things under control, not to let things go too far.
Sometimes, some people seek negative attention because it’s the only attention they can get. Some people would say, “You should be glad your mother cared about you.” Some people would say, “You were acting out to get her attention.” But that’s not how I remember it. I remember thinking I had been doing what she taught me to do — getting a boy’s attention, proving I was alive and valued — and I remember being shocked by the way it exploded in my face.
Pressed against the locker, receptive, I was trying to be the girl I thought she wanted me to be. Oh, I know, and I suppose I knew, that kissing in the hall was foolish and not “nice.” But to win the boy’s attention — wasn’t that what a girl was supposed to do? Wasn’t that what she wanted me to do?
It turned out that “too far” had two meanings, one private and one public. Pressed, I came to understand the difference.
(Part the second. Read the first one here.)