I had never heard of the game "Seven Minutes in Heaven" until Allison Crawford's fourteenth birthday party. She was new in town, and her parents desperately wanted her to be popular, so they let her have a big boy-girl party with minimal supervision. My parents probably would have shit bricks if they'd known exactly how often Allison's parents planned on checking on us (which was three times: once when we arrived, once in the middle of the party to see if we needed more snacks, and once when we went home, just to make sure nobody had gotten into the liquor cabinet, or if we had, that we'd sobered up enough to be presentable to our parents). Allison was old for her class, so we were only eighth-graders at the time, and many of us hadn't been introduced to the wonders of kissing games until that night.
I soon saw that it wasn't just a kissing game, this "Seven Minutes in Heaven." It was a game where you were thrust into the spare coat closet with a boy for seven minutes. It was pretty much too dark to kiss without making a horrible mess of it, so all you could really do was grope and be groped for seven minutes, hoping to avoid an accidental elbow to the head or poke in the eye. The boys in our class were certainly not clean enough to make this a pleasant experience for the girls, nor did they have any idea how a young woman (even one who was adventurous enough to actually play this game) might want to be touched.
I stood off to the side, epitomizing the wallflower as I watched the faces of those who had entered the coat closet as children and emerged as full-fledged, emotionally scarred young adults. Some of them (mostly boys) came out with stupid grins plastered to their faces. Others (mostly girls, but still a good number of boys) returned to the light with a confused look that practically shouted, "What the hell was that all about?" When Allison came out, looking incredibly self-satisfied with her experience of the captain of the lacrosse team, I caught the eye of a fellow wallflower and shared a grin with him. His name was Dave, and he was as quiet and shy and smart as I was, and I felt a sudden kinship with him that I'd never felt when I saw him in school. I imagined that he shared my train of thought, feeling out of place at a party with kissing games and no parents: these were things that popular kids did, parties that would become illicit keggers just a few short years into the future.
It was no affront to Dave's popularity to say that he probably wouldn't be invited to those future keggers. Even though he was on the lacrosse team, he wasn't a star player. And he was cute, but he had an uncanny knack for wearing unflattering clothes, probably hand-me-downs from his near infamous older brother. But he was highly invested in student government, the engineering team, and the concert choir. He was much more likely to spend a weekend night at the library than anyone else at school. Except maybe me. I'd seen him there a few times. Allison's friend Lindsey snapped me out of my reverie by grabbing my hand and pulling me toward the center of the crowd. "You're going in!" Lindsey cackled. She pushed me into the closet. Someone in the crowd said, "Who wants to go in with her?" in a tone that was part question, part insult. Yes, I know I'm a nerd. Thank you very much for reminding me. But then I did wonder about the answer to the question. I was standing in a dark closet, about to be joined by some boy who would volunteer to grope the least popular girl in school for seven minutes. It all happened so fast, I'm not even sure how it all unfolded. But the next thing I knew, there was a boy in the closet with me, and the door was closed.
"All right," I said quietly. "Do your worst."
"What?" said the voice in the dark.
"No," he said. "I came in here because I didn't want you to get pawed like those other girls."
"Oh," I said, starting to relax.
"You're too good for that," he said. "I like you."
"I'm sorry," I said. "But it's really dark in here. Who are you?"
"It's me, Dave," he said. I could hear the smile in his voice. I thought he was cute before, when I was watching him from across the room, but now that we were in the closet together and he was practically invisible, he was even more attractive.
"I like you too," I said. I reached out to where I imagined he was standing and accidentally smacked him with my hand as I tried to hug him.
"Ow," he said. "What was that for?"
"Sorry, I can't see you," I said. "I'm trying to give you a hug, though. I really appreciate what you did for me."
"Oh," he said. He slowly reached out until we could touch each other's hands and arms. "Your skin is so soft."
"I use a lot of lotion," I said.
"It smells nice, too," he said. I noticed then that Dave didn't smell like the other boys in our class. He was probably the only one who bothered to have a shower before coming to the party.
"Thank you," I said. I ran my hands up his arms, to his shoulders. He was developing a fine musculature, probably from all the lacrosse. I vaguely remembered that he was also on the winter track team. "How much time do you think we have left?"
"Enough," he said. He leaned down and pressed his lips to my forehead, then lower, to my cheek, then to my nose, then to my other cheek. He must have eaten eighteen carrots a day to be able to see so well in the dark. I was surprised by the kisses, but in all, still quite pleased with the experience. Then, he moved in for the kill, his perfect lips pressing softly against mine, then a little harder. I had always read about kisses in scores and scores of novels that I probably shouldn't have been allowed to read. But they couldn't prepare me for the rush of adrenaline that rose up from my stomach and made my heart flutter. At the moment when we were about to make the kiss even deeper, the door opened and thirty bratty kids were ruining my first kiss with their leers and cries of, "oooOOOooh!"
I pushed him away and he looked down at me with his beautiful icy blue eyes, which were, now that I saw him in the light, welling up with tears. Was he so nervous about kissing me that he couldn't help it? Was I doing it wrong? I grabbed his hand and pulled him out of the closet, out of the finished basement party room, and up to the top of the stairs, where I sat.
"Are you ok?" I asked. He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.
"I didn't mean to," he said.
"You didn't mean to what?"
"I didn't mean to take advantage of you," he said, still finding errant tears to brush away so that he wouldn't have to look at me.
"I didn't mean to take advantage of you, either," I said. "But I'm glad we both did." His expression seemed to melt as an unbidden smile crossed his lips. The other kids were now egging on some other poor pair in the closet, and they had long since forgotten about us.
"It was my first kiss," he said.
"Mine too," I said. "But I think I'd like to try for my second."