Lucas and I are sitting next to each other in the back, left corner table of the classroom. We’re looking forward but our knees are touching while we talk to two of our friends across from us. This is our safe place— we protect it— sitting together, our clammy hands clasped as one and hidden from our teacher and friends, as if we were the only two in the room. Twelve years from now, I won’t even recognize this boy; the shadowy photos pasted on the Internet resemble a figure who has lost the determination in his eyes and whose face is hollow and stained with the emptiness of alcohol. He has gained weight but his limps look as if all the muscle has dissipated from the weeks spent at home getting high. But right now, that doesn’t matter; all that matters is that we’re married. He proposed, by slipping a note into my locker, telling me to meet him by the water fountain. I did. He is my husband, I am his wife. We are six.
Lucas is the first boy I will say I love you to and hopefully will not be the last. He has a giant Bernese mountain dog and lives on Sixty Four Berkeley Place off of 7th avenue. I’ve memorized his address. His eyes are green and his dirty blond hair flops in front of his face during games of Tag; he constantly pushes it back. All his shirts are one size too big, and usually have a sports team lined across the front or back. He likes to wear his AYSO soccer jersey the most but it shows the most stains, which he seems to ignore. He doesn’t wear jeans. He likes the loose, Nike sports pants or the Adidas shorts, even though it is winter. I like the way he dresses because I also wear t-shirts and sport pants—they’re comfy. Lots of girls like him because he is good at Elimination and math, but he’s mine for now.
Kissing is a holy act in first grade—a big deal that no one has done. It is gross, unless you are married in which case it is okay; that is what our teachers tell us. Lucas and I sit and listen to our friend, across from us, describe her vacation down to Disney over the winter break. I eat my lunch with one hand and Lucas does the same. It does not even occur to us to let go while we inhale our Fruit Rollups or Go-Gurts. I am not really listening to our friend’s story, I am watching the snow begin to fall from the sky and brush against the glass window to my left. I eye Lucas and see he has finished his lunch and is picking at the tape on his table that is carefully placed over the script alphabet. Our teacher comes by to tell us to pack up and we release hands at the same time— she didn’t see us, our secret is safe.
I’ve never kissed anyone before, and the only knowledge I have is from watching the soap operas my Caribbean babysitter plays in the afternoons. Most episodes begin and end the same way. Girl-one would fall in love with handsome boy-one, but then boy-one would make a mistake and kiss girl-two, who would then happen to be girl-one’s unknown half-sister, and then there would be a big fight between girl-one and girl-two until, in the end, boy-one and girl-one would kiss and make up. Girl-two would also find someone along the way. Between commercials and homework I’d ask Zorra, my babysitter, “Zozo, why is she (girl-one) ignoring him (boy-one)?”
“Because he’s dumb and it’s all his fault but that silly girl still loves him.”
I want to kiss Lucas, but I don’t want him to make a mistake and kiss another girl; I liked being married. Mistakes scare me.
Lucas went to his locker after lunch, which is right outside of the bathroom. We met at our secret place by the water fountain two minutes before lunch ended, so we were alone. “My parents kiss all the time. We just got married so we should kiss. I’ve seen my parents do it.” He’s fingers are fumbling in his pockets, and his right ankle is crossed over his left while he explains why we’re hiding. My mom is single; I’ve never seen her kiss anyone but my brother and me on the forehead. She is a lawyer and raised us without a husband. She works a lot. I watch TV and movies with her where people kiss, but mostly she covers my eyes. I don’t know how to do it. I’m nervous but look up at Lucas and nod.
Our friends don’t believe us. We are stubborn and tell them that we did but they just shake their heads. “Prove it! If you guys kissed then do it again!” I look into Lucas’s green eyes that are now dilated and wide open. His hand is getting more and more slippery in my hand as we hesitate to answer. “Fine” I breathe. I turn towards Lucas, while a group of friends have huddled around us outside the classroom. Looking every single one of my classmates in the eye, I turn towards Lucas whose eyes are now closed, and I give him a quick peck on the cheek. “See? Now go away.” Our friends, with opened mouths and embarrassed expressions, turn and walk away sulking. None of them have ever kissed anyone on the cheek, let alone the lips.
“Thanks,” Lucas says looking down at his feet. His hair dangles in front of his face again so I cannot see his eyes. We didn’t want to kiss in front of our friends. They would say it was gross, but secretly be humiliated. It was special for Lucas and me by the water fountain; we are not ready to share it yet. While our friends trail back to class, disappointed, Lucas and I walk even slower so no can hear us.
“Are you still my wife?” he asks looking up, our hands still cemented together. His face is slightly paler, the tips of his mouth are bent down faintly, and his tone, scared.
“Yes,” I say confidently. His smile resumes, his green eyes become brighter somehow, and he leads me back to the classroom.
Our friends have already forgotten about what happened; they are scattered throughout the classroom playing with Legos and reading at their desks. The radio is still playing music in the background while our teacher goes from desk to desk checking for missed garbage. The snow has risen on the windowsill. Our classmate, who sits across from us, does not make eye contact with me when we sit down. She looks right into the crook of her elbow, staring. I am tapped on my shoulder and our teacher looks puzzled.
“We’re you two outside earlier?” she asks.
“Yes,” Lucas whispers. He doesn’t lie. I nod my head.
“Look, I know you two are close, but sneaking off outside the classroom with one another is not allowed without supervision. I’m afraid I’m going to have to move one of you to another table. Do you understand?” she tells us without breaking eye contact. Lucas and I still have not released hands, as she turns her gaze down towards them. We don’t respond.
“Okay?” she asks, a little more forcefully and agitated.
“Yes,” we both say in unison. With a sigh, she asks a boy in the front of the room to switch tables with Lucas. The boy agrees.
Lucas releases my hand first. The snow in the window has gotten much higher as a snowstorm approaches. The room is light with a gray shade reflecting the sky where the sun is hidden in the clouds. Lucas takes his spot at the front, with his back facing me. Lucas had sweaty hands and suddenly, without them, my hands go cold. The girl across from me still has her head tucked into the V of her arm. I am silent, never lifting my eyes to see if Lucas looks back at me.
Mia Kellman, Age 17, Grade 12, Berkeley Carroll School, Silver Key