It was Robby. Beautiful Robby whose house we lived in – in the upstairs apartment in their Victorian farmhouse in the city. Robby whose family raised geese. Terribly mean, knee-biting geese. Robby who was at times as mean as that one goose, particularly that time he herded the goose towards me so that when I began to run away, the chased me across the yard. Robby laughing at me running in my patent leather church shoes, screaming in terror of this giant white creature whose wing span was wider than my stride, who stood almost as tall as me at five years old. Robby who dropped the boulder from the back step reconstruction right on my bare foot, permanently disfiguring three of my toes so that the nails really don’t like to take polish even now, thirty-eight years later, Robby so long dead it seems a dream remembering any of this.
I think he was my first kiss. That’s the narrative I’ve told myself – I think I’ve told it all my life, but maybe I started telling it after Robby wrote his note to me about the voices in his head the day he took his bed pillow and a gun and walked into the patch of woods across the street from his house. Maybe it was after I found out about how he stretched out in the dry leaves and put the barrel in his mouth and the pillow over his face and pulled the trigger.
Maybe I blocked out any other potential first kiss for this kiss, the one that he set down on my lips that time his mom was babysitting me, long after we had moved into our own house in another town. His bunk bed was tucked in the corner of our old kitchen, the paint the same yellow, and the pantry turned into some sort of laboratory where he kept his bugs, and frogs, and feathers, and stones, and lists of things he knew, and things he wanted to know.
He slept on the top bunk and I slept on the bottom. He had tucked a baseball card and a marble into the springs of the top mattress, just above my pillow. I was nine or ten, he eleven or twelve. Did he kiss me then? Or was it earlier in the evening? I think it was then, when I saw the tokens in the springs and I asked are these for me and he swung his torso over the edge of the mattress, his blonde hair flipping across his forehead then popping straight down towards the floor, and he gave me a quick kiss that I think I can still feel, then disappeared again.