The heart is a wonderful mess. The brain is nowhere without it.
The heart is for fools.
The brain is for accountants.
The accountant in my brain, an underpaid guy named Don, wearing a brown suit, has kept track of all the affairs of my heart. Don sent some of those files up from accounting to share with you this Valentine's Day. He's the best. He even organized them in categories.
First Time Holding Hands With a Girl
Hand-holding is an undervalued part of the mating dance. When you're 13 and standing in warm ocean waters off the coast of South Carolina, it's also pretty much the only thing in your repertoire. It's plenty.
Her name was Amy. Her phone number was 896-6696 (I told you Don was good). We were in Myrtle Beach at a swim meet. In the ocean that day I grabbed her arm on reflex when, our backs to the sea, a wave caught us off guard and, in an act of apparently natural irony, nearly swept us off our feet.
We rose from the Atlantic gazing into each other's eyes. My hand slid down from her wrist and our fingers formed a tight, wet clasp.
The Speedo Swimsuit Company of Portland, Ore., has outfitted champion swimmers for decades. The suit's chlorine-resistant performance technology is the industry standard.
Still. Speedo fabric engineers could never have imagined the test of durability put to their product that day in South Carolina. There was an intense sproing in my Speedo. Luckily, I was standing in water deep enough so that no one else had to witness the test. As a result of this event, Don in accounting reports that Amy qualifies as a two-fer in the "firsts" department.
Amy was also my first nureltnee. Nureltnee (pronounced nur-RELT-nee) is a term my fellow UW swim team mates coined years later to describe an erection so diamond-hard that you only get three of them in your life and the third one kills you. At 13 years old, I was terrified by its arrival. I told Amy to go on ashore without me. I waited out in the waves to see if it would go away. I had to find my way back to the motel in the dark.
Her name was Julie and she had close-set, serious brown eyes. She didn't smile much but when she did, it burned your house down. My buddy Craig and I had just finished egging a fancy, backyard garden party Julie was attending, which is what you did in ninth grade when you weren't invited to a fancy backyard garden party. Our sneak attack created bedlam during which, for reasons not even Don can account for, Julie and I found ourselves behind the lush, green drapery of a magnolia tree.
"I didn't even want to come to this," Julie said, her face tilting up to mine. We kissed. Only once but it was a long one. We detached and looked at each other in complete disbelief. We were panting. She smiled at me.
First Kiss That Lasted Forever
There were a bunch of kisses and different girls after Julie. Don says that list is pretty long, not that that's anything to brag about, but if you like kissing, you like kissing.
Along with the other documentation I needed for this story, Don brought up a huge, leather-bound volume marked "Peggy."
We were in college, and Peggy was long-legged and black Irish. Several first-date false starts led to our premiere face-to-face meeting at a Johnson Street house party.
I arrived before Peggy and threaded my way through the dense, drunk crowd to the back of the kitchen. I leaned against the fridge and, enduring the clanging noise made by a blender crafted from a fire extinguisher canister and a vacuum cleaner drive shaft, I fixed my eyes on the room's entranceway. I waited.
I actually sensed it when she entered the house. Sure enough, moments later, Peggy appeared: the spitting image of a young Emmylou Harris. Our eyes locked across the noisy kitchen. We never broke eye contact as we bumped through the crowd toward one another. We met in the middle of the kitchen. Without saying a word, we kissed.
We held fast to the kiss as we staggered sideways on our feet to we-knew-not-where. In this way, our first kiss coincided with our first steps together. The bathroom door fell open and we tumbled, still sealed at the mouth, into a claw-footed bathtub.
The next half-hour is a gorgeous blur, as are the subsequent three or four days, but Don reports that as a result of these events, I have one nureltnee left.
The following 27 years haven't been too bad, either.