"First Kisses" a short story by Gibson Culbreth


To start I must start from the beginning.  The very moment I saw your floppy hair and bullet black eyes and I thought to myself, 'this boy, I kind of want this boy'.

I thought something was wrong with me because no one had ever kissed me, no one had ever wanted me.  I saw myself as weighty and unworthy and weird.  The classes that society places on you are already prevalent in high school.  I was not in the top tier.  I would find out that you weren't either.

I was 15, and when you kissed me, which thrilled me from the tip of my toes, you apologized.  "I'm sorry I was your first."  You tasted like orange Trident gum and Mountain Dew.  To this day the smell of citrus gum makes me think of laying in your bed, your lanky limbs clasping me awkwardly.

Neither of us knew how to love. Not yet.


I thought it would never happen.  You started by staring at me, talking to me, making fun of me, joking with me, calling me.  You lit my nerves on fire and your smile, which you flashed with bravado at other girls besides myself, made my jaw lock.

I didn't think you were cute at first.  You had a big chin, a bigger ego.  I thought you were all flash and pizazz with no substance.

I knew your girlfriend.  I was friends with her briefly once upon a time.  When you started earnestly pursuing me I asked you about her and you told me she existed.  I let the silence buzz on the line for a second.  That was the first time I felt you get tense.

I had no idea what I was in for with you.

We waited till the end of school to really start going at it.  You would invite me out and I'd duck behind trees, under seats.  I didn't want anyone to know because somehow you'd gotten me to fall for you.  I was embarrassed.  I always assumed that I would be better than that.

I don't think you intended for me to leave a lasting impression, and in the year that we've been apart I'm not sure I have but it doesn't really matter anymore.

When you kissed me it was perfect and awful.  I cried.  "But you're going away so soon." In a park in June with your girlfriend buzzing your phone in your pocket.  "But you have a girlfriend."

Later, at your parents house I kissed you.  I wanted you.

The last time I saw you you were disappearing behind a line of trees, lighting a cigarette and never looking back.  I knew that I'd never see you again even though it wasn't spoken, and we didn't officially end for a few more months.

Now I doubt I ever loved you.


I called you "The Russian" because I hated your name. I was bouncing back from Ethan, and you were nice.  Eager like a puppy.  I tried to want you but I just couldn't.

You kissed me on December 1st, with snowflakes pinwheeling around our heads.  You kissed like a battle axe, as if you could not grasp my own soft tongue, you were not going to let it escape.

When you slept in my bed I was fully clothed, and as soon as you left I washed my sheets because they smelled like you.


When I met you all else vanished.  I felt like the world fucking fell away and there was just you and me and that Dandy Warhols song playing in the background like a goddamn chick flick.  Then, you were over at my apartment, we were drinking.  We went up to the roof, I put you in my bed and leaned over you and you grinned at me.  I stole your hat to ensure that you'd show up again.

You slept in my bed before we kissed.  Your shirt was off, I don't remember how that happened.  We started on the couch, knees touching, then hands, then we were cuddling into each other.  You made the decision to stay over without me asking you.  You clasped me to you like you'd never let go.  We slept until five.  It was still hard when you left.

I started to wonder if you'd ever kiss me.  Even thinking about it now has my heart pounding.  You kissed me during the Royal Tenenbaums. My whole body was tensed against yours and I was willing it in my head. "Please kiss me, please?  Please?" Your fingers reached over, grasping my chin and then your lips were on mine.

For years I have read books that speak of fireworks when kissing happens.  Those behind your eyes stars, the reeling, the fading away of reality and time and everything you held dear before that moment.  I always thought it was a bunch of bullshit, until you.  Later you would disappoint me in the biggest way, be a huge, gut-wrenching heartbreak.  But that night, you were perfect.


You tasted like gummy bears, whiskey and sweat.  Nothing about it was romantic, but maybe it was necessary.  We were both deeply wounded.  I stripped the bed after you left sweat shrouds in it.  I never let you take my pants off.  I know it frustrated you.


I was too drunk but I pushed you up against the pillar on the train platform.  You asked if you could kiss me, like a gentleman.  You tasted like Marlboros, which was kind of comforting.  You kept saying you didn’t usually do this, you didn’t want to take things too fast, but I was running from my demons and I was trying to escape through you.  I took it too fast and wrecked it all, but it’s ok.  We were both consolation prizes to one another, I’m sure one day some girl will love you like you deserve.

-Gibson Culbreth

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