She leaned into me, tilted her head to the side and closed her eyes. I did the same as I waited for the inevitable kiss. Under different circumstances, this might have played out like a Robert Doisneau photograph. But reality never plays out that way… Especially when you’re a teenager. In that mid-price range hotel room, I smelled the cheap perfume and felt her body heat wash over me. It was a strange feeling—an act of defiance against everything I was taught. To frustrate matters, there were about thirty college kids in the room with me, already pairing up into couples, each seeking out some sort of privacy that doesn’t exist in rented spaces. I saw them in my peripheral and heard the moaning in the next room. She trembled in my arms, this foreign body that triggered a cold sweat throughout my body. I felt her breath on my face. I braced for the impact… And then she burst into tears.
I’d like to say it was my manly bravado that reduced her to a blubbering mess, but the truth is I would have been the one bursting into tears if she hadn’t beaten me to it. What had taken over an hour to build up to this moment was quickly undone by an honest emotion. I spent the rest of the evening comforting her, all the while privately reconciling the moral dilemma.
It happened two months after my eighteenth birthday. We were in a city fifty miles from home. We walked out through the double doors like Jehovah’s Witnesses on a mission. In fact, we were Jehovah’s Witnesses, but we weren’t spreading the Good News at the Holiday Inn this late at night. Our mission? To get laid. Or, at least to get, Sergio, my best friend laid. The JW convention meant staying in discounted hotels. Sergio ran into a college group from Berkeley staying at the Ramada Inn. We were invited to our first beer party and there would be plenty of girls to choose from.
“I met this girl,” he said. “If I play it cool, she’ll be mine by the end of the night… Oh, she has a friend, so you need to come.” He assured me that if I didn’t go, I would be denying him a basic need. Besides, it was during these conventions, away from home, that we weren’t closely watched by the ever-seeing eyes of the congregation elders. So we lined our briefcases, not with Watchtower literature, but with 12-ounce cans of Miller Genuine Draft.
She explained the reason for her breakdown. She, too, had been brought along by her friend. She didn’t want to be here. To make matters worse, she only agreed to come along on this trip because she had a crush on a boy… A boy who was inflicting pangs of illicit pleasure to a nameless girl in the next room. Suddenly, she didn’t seem as foreign as I thought her to be. Still, I didn’t feel inclined to kiss a woman passionately on the lips for another fifteen years. And even then, I braced myself for the impact.
I was proud of the fact that I didn’t compromise the truth about myself. I was proud that I was honest with myself. But I worried that I could never live up to the moral standards I was brought up with. They teach us fundamental truths while they instill in us a list of what is right and what is wrong. Their list may not always be right, but I think I conquered the fundamentals.