When I was ten years old, a vibrant, small girl named Tara Feher kissed me on my cheek. This was the first kiss for a young boy of ten, a boy who had some amount of cute good looks, and the potential to exceed all expectations in school. This boy, me, was a smart boy, a brilliant boy, and thus was segregated from the rest of the kids my age. The boys frowned upon smarts and smiled upon sports. I was a fan of sports, and through the years became quite accomplished at playing basketball, but not while in this school, because there were always boys who were better at basketball. I was run-of-the-mill. I was average after I learned to play sports. I never stuck out, I never made a name for myself. These things were who I was as a child. But for some reason, that kiss comes back to me – a child filled with the energy and brilliance of pre-pubescent youth kissed me for my first time.

It sticks out in my mind to this day, and even though, the memories have become vague pictures and impressions in my mind.

“I love you, Devon,” she said, and kissed me on my cheek. I was nonplussed at the time. I remember some time shortly thereafter that she left a very long message on my answering machine, singing odd, disjointed songs about her love for me, with her best friend Linda Whitehouse. Of this I still only retain the vaguest thought, because I only remember how embarrassed I was when my mother played back the message. She and her husband had laughed so hard, but I remained embarrassed. I went to bed.

The reason this girl Tara sticks out in my mind is because I saw her six years after the kiss on the cheek, after I had become wanted. She was still small – she had never been tall. She was like a wraith, she looked ill at ease, sick. She had lost the vivaciousness of which I have already spoken, and had become a small, unimportant thing. She was smoking, and this had also aged her. I can’t say with a certainty that she had been doing drugs that had taken a very negative toll on her, but I won’t rule it out because of my own past experiences. We said hi to one another, and that was it. I walked into the 7-11 store, and the thought of the kiss on the cheek occurred to me. I brightened, forgetting how beaten down the young woman looked, and I walked outside to remind her of this: she was gone. I still feel somewhat bad about that, I think that I may have gotten into contact with her had I wanted more to do so. I did not. I suppose that to some extent this writing is for her, to tell her hello, and that I remember the child she was, and that no matter what is happening in her life, I remember her, and cherish her for giving me that first kiss.

There was rumour after rumour that I heard from old friends in Hamilton. They contained all the nobility that sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds can muster: she’d sucked this many dicks, she’d fucked this many guys, she’d fucked this many black guys. Frankly, I didn’t care much for these rumours. It was just a sign, if true, as to how her life had went off track in the years between when I knew her, and when I went back to Hamilton to visit.

I have few friends or memories that have went beyond space and time, save for bad ones. Friends that have lasted for my whole life. I have always moved about, darting from one area of the country to another. Canada is remarkable for that. Anywhere from BC to Newfoundland is beautiful. The road trips I’ve taken contain some of my most valued memories, the St. Lawrence River, outport Newfoundland, the plains. But I still remember and cherish that first kiss. And I always will. I guess that it’s simply taken me ten years to say it back:

I love you too, Tara. Keep on keepin’ on, girl.

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