"So… are you going to talk to him about it?” my friend, Tara, asks me as we watch Ryan inconspicuously from across the gym in our church building. Our weekly activity has just ended, and a rumor has been whispered into my ear, where it promptly dispersed a hundred little question marks to go tip-toeing around in my brain.
Ryan’s imminent approach is the only source of my resolute answer to Tara’s question. “Yes. I am going to talk to him about it right now!”
“Hey,” he says.
“Is it true that you have a girlfriend now?” I blurt out, unable to muster any finesse.
“Yeah, it is.”
“Who is she?” I ask.
“Her name is A.”
My words splutter out amidst gasps. “I don’t even know her!”
“You’d like her. She’s awesome… and she’s good lookin’.”
“I can’t believe you have a girlfriend just like that!”
He says his next sentence slowly, like a teacher leading a student to an answer.
“You have a boyfriend too. Remember? B?”
“I know that, but… but… you’re still my fiancé, right?”
The look he gives me is a mixture of his patience for my craziness and his resolve and dedication to playing along with it. “Well, of course I am,” he says.
“Well, okay!” I say, feeling that a disaster has somehow been diverted.
“But in the meantime,” he says, his voice taking on the usual tormenting quality, “I think you should kiss B.”
“WHAT? No, I’m not going to kiss- Shhhhhhh….” I remember the crowded gym and look around frantically while flapping my hands to lower the volume of our conversation.
Then I continue in a passionate whisper, “I’m not going to kiss B! Why would you suggest that? Why? Wait a minute. It’s because you’re going to kiss A, isn’t it?”
“Come here,” he says, chuckling at my response. I follow him across the hall, stomping and huffing all the way.
He leads me to a large classroom, but people are mingling there as well so he motions me through the room to the door of the janitor’s supply closet. He opens the closet door and walks into the dark, clean smelling and well organized little area where two people can just barely stand without breathing each other’s air.
He flicks a light switch and a single, low watt bulb allows us to see well enough that we’re able to leave the door open no more than a crack and avoid the listening ears of our friends and classmates.
“Yeah,” he says, “I think you should kiss B.”
“No! I’m not going to! You’re going to kiss A aren’t you?”
“Maybe, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.”
From practice, I go easily into the dedicated speech that I have given to myself over and over again. “I’m not kissing B or anybody! I’m not giving up my first kiss for a long time, and when I do it’s going to be a kiss I don’t regret later. Everybody I know regrets their first kiss. I’m not blowing mine on a guy who turns out to be a jerk, or on a scenario like… let’s see… what was yours again? Spin the bottle?”
“Yeah, but I don’t regret it. It was fun.”
“Fun?” I say, like that is the most menial description that could ever make a kiss worthwhile.
“Yeah, fun. Why does everything with you have to be so dramatic and meaningful? Why can’t anything just be fun?”
I look at him like he’s speaking a foreign language as I lean back on a crate filled with spray bottles and industrial paper towels.
I’m not sure what to make of Ryan telling me to kiss B, because I’m pretty certain he doesn’t really want me to. I know I’m not a fan of him kissing A, and what was this about kissing being fun? Sometimes he simplifies everything so much that it’s like my mind is a hedge maze and he’s in an airplane.
Still, I can’t quite place fun as any of the first ten adjectives in my personal description of kissing. Kissing, I decide, isn’t fun if you are too young and scared and abhorrent to the idea. So… fun, drama, meaning… whatever kissing will be for me- it will be waiting.
My thoughts are interrupted by the sound of the closet door being pushed shut from the outside. Click. It’s followed by boy laughter.
I look at Ryan, raise an eyebrow, and silently ask him to explain the juvenile antics of his gender. He replies with nothing but a lazy smile. I stand up, reach out and put my hand on the doorknob. My twisting wrist produces no results. The doorknob won’t turn.
“Cute,” I say. “It’s locked.” I knock on the door. “Very funny you guys. Now, let us out.”
The doorknob moves from the other side, but it still meets resistance at about a quarter inch. I hear more laughter from outside, growing into a mixture of nervous pride and amused hysteria.
“We can’t open it,” the boy voices say, “It’s locked.”
“I see that it’s locked,” I say. “So unlock it.”
More laughing. “There’s no way for us to unlock it. There’s only a key hole.”
I turn back toward Ryan, my look frantic. His interest in our imprisonment as a possible problem is only now peaking. I start shaking and twisting the doorknob, hoping some desperate combination of the two could lead to our release.
I hear a girl voice chastising the boys from outside. Thank goodness. A voice of reason. As it turns out, though, not someone with the capability of opening the door. The girl voice calls, “I’ll go find someone who has a key.”
This leads me to shake and twist the doorknob more fervently while my voice raises octaves with every word I speak. “They’re going to have to get a grown up with a key to get us out! This is horrifying. Do you know what this looks like? Do you know what they’re going to think of you and I locked in a closet together?”
Ryan is still leaning casually on a crate, looking amused as he says, “It probably looks like something a lot more interesting than it actually is.”
A whine like some wounded animal rises up from my throat as I flatten my back against the closet door and mentally submit to the humiliation I’m going to face when light finally pours into this closet and I face the adult standing, with key in hand, on the other side. I’d almost rather stay in here.
“Don’t worry so much,” Ryan says, “It’s really not that big of a deal.”
“Not that big of a deal, huh? Typical. Our conversations always end up with us debating over how big of a deal things are!”
I hear keys jingling outside. I hear one being inserted into the lock and I back up as the doorknob turns. Light pours in behind the figure of respected neighbor and member of our ward bishopric, Brother Mike Huntsman.
My face burns hot with embarrassment. I walk past him, talking a mile a minute as I flounder to first thank and then explain. “Thank you so much. I’m so sorry and- we were just talking, I swear.”
I’m too caught up to notice Ryan’s reaction to any of this until Brother Huntsman has gone about his way and the crowd has dispersed.
My breathing slows some now that the danger of reprimand has passed.
As I prepare to leave for home, Ryan catches my eye. “Fun, huh?”
I can’t help but give him half a smile and half a begrudging concurrence, “Maybe a little.”
Author’s note: Brother Huntsman became Bishop Huntsman a few years later and to this day, never misses an opportunity to remember with gracious fondness and good natured teasing, the day he rescued Ryan and I from the locked church closet.