It was in the fall of seventh grade.
A bunch of us piled into a friend’s car.
I remember lots of laughing, goofing around.
Nearly new teenagers filled with the thrill of being alive.
A girl with jet-black hair I’d known since first grade squeezed in
Next to me and the entire length of her thigh
pressed into mine by the crush of bodies in the back seat.
I fell in love for the first time.
Just like that.
We never dated, and it wasn’t long before my
family moved overseas and our paths never crossed again. .
But to this day, as happens with these things,
I can recall the precise feeling of her leg, the shape and
strength and softness of it from 53 years ago.
The then mysterious female-ness of it.
The shock and power of
it on my body and soul, it burned.
Swept me out to sea.
That’s what being a 14-year-old boy is like.
It’s why we become wary of feelings.
We fear our lack of control over such things.
Both of us are nearing our 70s, and I’ve only seen her once
in all the years since. She doesn’t remember this,
and barely remembers me. We were just kids together.
It’s just remarkable that experience has such power.
It proves how little free choice we often have,
and how sometimes memories are no less sweet,
for being burned into us by random chance,
and how who we were is still with us
even out beyond the orbit of Neptune.