Chapter 1: First Kisses

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I have always considered writers who write memoirs to be pretentious. If you sit down and decide to pen a memoir, you’re saying my life is more interesting than yours, and you should want to read about it. Writing a memoir is an exercise in self-praise and exaggeration.

Of course, I don’t actually read memoirs because it’s almost guaranteed I won’t find any magic or swordplay. Where’s the fun in that?

Maybe I’m being overly harsh. Some of you have faced great tragedy and triumph, and have lived a story for the ages. I haven’t.  I have no sordid past nor plans to save or even change the world, and so I must rely on the wellspring of my imagination in my storytelling.

And yet, here I am, typing away at what arguably could be called a memoir. I’m forcing you (what ego I have, to assume you are there!) to read about me. But I promise not to torture you with stories of my childhood (in a nutshell, mostly pleasant) or my career (summation: I like it). This will be a story about love.

…Did that make you throw up a little in your mouth? Because it did me. No, not a story about love. Let me rephrase: a story about not-love. Stories about not-love.


His name was John. Well, no it wasn’t, but for the sake of this story we will call him John. I met him the first day of high school in my pre-calculus class. He, his best friend Jared and I were the only freshmen in the class, and all of us were nerds (though at this point in my life I still attempted to hide it), and so we formed an immediate alliance.

John was tall—shockingly tall, a foot taller than me—and rail thin. In the entire year we sat together in math class, I never once saw him without his hat, a black baseball cap emblazoned with a smiling orange flame. I learned later that his hair looked like the piranha plant in Super Mario; it appeared to be eating his head. He had a small mole in the dip between his nose and mouth and he occasionally suffered from acne.

None of these descriptions make him sound attractive. But he was, at least to me. It wasn’t something I would ever admit aloud, not even to my closest friends. John Fenstermacher, attractive? He was both a nerd and a slacker – a slacker-nerd – and that automatically made him a loser. I’d like to say I was above such things, but at thirteen, I bought into the popularity game as much as everyone else.

Still, while John Fenstermacher was unacceptable to date, I wasn’t above befriending him.  During those early days of text messaging, he, Jared and I exchanged numbers and we texted in between classes. I flirted with them both equally, although I must make the caveat that I’m a terrible flirt and was probably worse at it then.

“I have two gigs of porn on my computer,” Jared told me one day.

I tilted my head and asked, “Is that a lot?

John snorted. “Jesus, Sally, don’t you know anything about computers? Jared’s a regular porn connoisseur.”

“How many gigs of porn do you have on your computer?”

John’s face slowly flooded to red. “I don’t have any,” he said, his voice cracking a little. I thought he was adorable.

I began to think I might like him enough to get past his loser social status. “What do you think of John?” I asked my friend Mandy. She was—and I say this without malice—the ugliest girl I’ve ever met. But she had money, and a large house with parents who rarely supervised, and that was enough to buy her a measure of popularity despite her witchy face and piss-poor personality.

“John? John Fenstermacher?” She wrinkled her nose in disgust. “You’ve got to be kidding me, Sally. I won’t be friends with you if you like a guy like that.”

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