A wave of nausea hit me as I parked the car and glanced over at the front doors of the customs building. Saliva gathered in the back of my throat as the cold sweat contained between my shoulder blades blitzkrieged over the surface of my body to annex the remote but strategic territory of my forehead, bedazzling it with great glistening beads. Dark pools formed under my arms and my heart pounded in my neck, as I saw her face in my mind.
She was dead, hit by a train, three days after I stole the condoms.
We were both in grade twelve.
She sat beside me in calculus class, and she wasn’t that pretty or anything, but something about her—something that no writer in the history of the world has ever been able to articulate, except for maybe Duke Miller—inspired my vivid fantasies on a regular basis. Eventually, she picked up on it, because during class, on the day of my eighteenth birthday, she passed me a folded piece of paper that contained a sketch of two people engaged in an atypical act of sexual congress. Just below the sketch, in an elegant and grammatically precise cursive, it said, I’m ovulating; you’ll need protection. I could feel her watching me as I considered the meaning of such vulgar whimsy, and then my face went warm and red as I wrote when? on the paper and passed it back to her. Lunch was her laconic response.
After class she found me in the corridor and asked me if I did, in fact, have condoms, and I, the ever flustered eighteen year old virgin who wanted to appear quite the opposite told her that I had an entire carton because, of course, I went through them like chain smokers go through cigarettes. This was my cloistered version of what a worldly stud might say to a promiscuous young woman, and I regretted it immediately because my face went even redder and warmer than it had in class. Fortunately, she took mercy on me and laughed at my goofball grandiloquence, before confessing in a hushed voice that she had been having dreams about her death for the past six months, and that she had made a bucket list in case the dreams were prophetic, and, as it turned out, I was number eleven on that list. I wondered if numbers one through ten contained the names of other boys, as I went mute, silenced by the macabre nature of what she just told me. She stood there blinking at me, and I caught a glimpse of the mournful resignation in her eyes, so I leaned in, kissed her on the cheek, and told her that I would meet her at lunchbreak, by the bleachers.
I didn’t have any condoms, nor did I have any money to buy condoms with, but I wasn’t about to let a trivial shortcoming like that prevent our momentous liaison. As soon as my lips had left the paradise of her cheek, I turned and marched directly over to the nearest drug store, where I took matters, quite literally, into my own hands. And you already know what happened next: I got arrested and spent the remainder of the school day dealing with the cops, and the unforgiveable sin of having committed ‘theft under five thousand dollars’.
For the next two days her seat in calculus class stayed empty, and then on the third day an announcement came over the PA system. Apparently she was crossing the train tracks near her house while listening to music on her Walkman. I hope she was listening to her favourite song…Hmm…Thinking about it now, I guess she’s always kind of been my first love, even though it was just a peck on the cheek. And I’ll never know if she knew it was my birthday.