Being fourteen on a Saturday night in mid-July in Western New York is this: you convince your mother that you need to leave your dad’s birthday party early because (1) you see these people all the time (2) your dad doesn’t care because he’s on his fourth Genny Cream and (3) the Guerinots are in town and they haven’t been here yet this summer so can we please just go to Diane’s to watch Salem’s Lot? Yes, her mother is home. Geez.
After some eye rolling and pretend cake eating, you are released from your familial obligations. Escaping the kitchen, you overhear your mother mutter something to your aunt about how relieved she is that she has seven more years before Kelly starts acting like you.
The night summer air is black velvet sunshine: warm and humid. The cicadas cheer as you skip-run toward Diane’s, electricity in every limb because you know for a fact that (1) Diane’s mom is not home and (2) Brian is in town along with the Guerinots.
Brian Laney. Steve Guerinot’s best friend. Seventeen and a senior on the swim team. Brian with the shoulders bigger than any ever seen. Brian with the tanned skin the color of raw honey. Brian who locked his thighs around your waist underwater last night while you swam in the pool after the adults grew tired of swatting at mosquitoes and went inside to play Euchre. Brian. Laney. Your insides are on fire, you are shaking, your pulse quickens.
“You think he’ll kiss you tonight?”
You laugh at Lauren, a short ha! because you can’t find your breath.
You knock on Diane’s side door as you open it, announcing you need a beer though this would be your first. Brian is grinning at you as he leans against the refrigerator, his arms caramel brown against his white T-shirt. He takes a sip of the Bud he’s drinking and reaches into the fridge for another. For you. He pops the top using the remover screwed beneath the counter.
His hand lingers on yours as he hands the bottle over. It’s as if you’d touched an open socket.
“Come on, the show started an hour ago,” Diane complains, waving us into the dark living room where kids crowd couches and chairs. Brian takes your free hand and pulls you behind him. The two of you sit on the floor, backs against the couch, his right hand holding your left.
Over the next hour, there’s some screaming despite the lame special effects, but those were the only moments your attention fell away from what was happening between you and Brian Laney. The beer was sweating; you were sort of, too. But the feeling in your belly, your hips, making your thighs ache, was what his thumb was doing to your hand: the circular motion, the oh-so-subtle pressure of his thumb on top of yours…
And this is being fourteen on a Saturday night in mid-July in Western New York.