I ran through the checklist in my mind over and over again as we walked from campus.

Were my lips chapped? Did I put on too much lip balm? Too little? Maybe I didn’t drink enough water?

My heart was beating in time with my wristwatch, the thump-thumps of the former marching double-time to the tick-ticks of the latter as unanswered questions filled my mind.

Do I turn my head left, or to the right? Should I lean down to her? Or should I have her tip-toe to me like all the Disney princesses do? Does she even like Disney? Wait, did I fall for someone who doesn’t like Disney? Only monsters don’t like Disney. Do I love a monster? What would our half-monster, half-human children look like?

I was sweating profusely, and it was a nippy 50 degrees outside. I turned and saw a classmate shivering in a beanie and scarf.

“Are you okay?” She looked at me, her eyes like heat lamps beaming on my already-warm mug.

We were walking and holding hands, and I could feel the rivulets begin to form in my palm. Not today, not today, not today, I thought to myself. On the bright side, it seems that I had drunk enough water.

As we approached her stop, I glanced around for any signs of her parents. The levies in my armpits had given out, and under my shirt felt swampy and hopeless.

She turned to me. “Well, I guess my parents will be here soon…” Was that a signal? Was that the signal?

She smiled, and for a brief moment, I melted. I felt like a Dali painting. But then the glint off of something in her mouth brought me back to reality.

Braces. Braces!

Are you kidding me? Nowhere on the Internet did anyone mention how to work around braces when you were doing this, no special appendix with corner cases to consider during your first shared moment of physical intimacy. Someone’s going to get an angry letter. I don’t know who, but someone will.

Then I turned back to her, and she laughed, not knowing what was going on in my head. I sheepishly grinned back, tilted my head to the right, and closed my eyes, pressing my lips to hers and pulling her in with my moist hands. I felt her body stiffen, then soften as she pushed herself closer to me.

We stepped away from each other, a little out of breath, our eyes still adjusting to the afternoon light. “I’ll see you tomorrow?” I asked.

“If you’re lucky,” she teased.

I turned and walked away, drying my hands on my jeans. My forehead was still soaked.



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