2002-05-20 - 6:36 p.m.

I contracted the herpes virus at the tender age of six. Yeah, that’s right. Me and Bobby W. were lip-locked in a closet while my best friend sat frantic on the other side of the door tapping on the wood while whimpering, “Whisper, Whisper, your mom TOLD you NOT to kiss Bobby when he had a cold sore. Bobby has a COLD SORE WHISPER, your mom is gonna be mad...would you please come out? PuuuuuLLLLLEEAAASSSEE?”

But I didn’t come out of that closet that day. Bobby W. and I sat in there huddled beneath my great grandfathers old suit jackets and kissed like teenagers for a long time. And sure enough, the next morning I woke up with a festering blister the size of Texas on my bottom lip. My mother shook her head at me in consternation, “I TOLD you not to kiss Bobby when he had a cold sore.”

“I didn’t kiss Bobby Mama, that’s gross, I don’t kiss boys,” I lied.

From then on cold sores became part of my face at least once a month. Whenever I had a cold sore I would become fixated on it. I would constantly lick it and when my parents or grandmother would tell me to stop licking it I would find something cold to stick my mouth on to ease the discomfort. It didn’t matter what it was, if it was cold I was sticking my mouth on it. It got to a point where my grandmother wouldn’t take me in public if I had a cold sore. Not only was her pretty little granddaughter tainted and pocked with the herpes virus, but she would often find me with my mouth clamped to glass counters in stores or with my lips stuck in someone’s glass of ice water.

As I got older the frequency of the cold sores went down, by the time I got to high school I was only getting maybe six a year. The problem was that Bobby W. would get them at the same time as I did. Bobby and I didn’t hang around in the same crowd, I hadn’t spoken to Bobby since kindergarten. I never had him in any classes and I rarely ever had to see him, but if I did happen to pass him in the hall I would always glare at his lips. I did not spend any time at all around Bobby W. until the day I got kicked out of A.P. History for telling my teacher to “fucking leave me alone” one day. There were no other A.P. History teachers or classes so I had to be demoted to regular old History because I needed the credit. And Bobby W. was in that regular old History class and I had to sit next to him with my lips covered in hideous boils.

Even after twelve years he and I couldn’t look at one another. Especially not when we both had a cold sore.

Every day I dreaded going to that class, I hated sitting next to him, hated the fact that he was in fact the first boy I ever kissed. I hated him. Until....

The day came when we had to have partners for a project, instead of being able to pick the partner our teacher just assigned us partners. And I was assigned to be a partner with Bobby. We were both extremely uncomfortable, you could just tell there was something between us, some deep and hidden secret. I turned into ultra bitch, I was so mean to him that I still cringe now. And he always just sat there in silence, never saying a word to me. And then, we both got a cold sore and the discomfort in our partnership became more evident. So evident that someone spread a rumor that Bobby and I were secretly dating. Vince D. was the first to say it in class, he pointed at our lips and said, “You guys shouldn’t be making out if one of you has a cold sore, they are highly contagious.”

I was mortified. I was a little bit of a snob in high school, I had a reputation to protect, I couldn’t be linked with Bobby, he wasn’t part of my crowd. Bobby saw that fear in my eyes, and I suppose Bobby had his own reputation to protect as well, he couldn’t very well be linked to a snobby class president type who wore only Guess jeans. So he punched Vince D. in the jaw and said, “Shut up, she would never be caught dead with someone like me.

Every time I get a cold sore now I think about Bobby W. I don’t regret kissing him any more because that day, when he punched Vince in the jaw, I saw a look on his face that must have hurt more than any punch could ever hurt. I saw sadness on his face, sadness because I had ignored him for twelve years, that I wouldn’t have anything to do with him, sadness because he knew that I thought I was better than him. And he still kept our secret, as horrible as I had been, he kept our secret. I never again looked down on anyone from that day on. I didn’t go on dates with guys just because they were popular or because they had nice cars, I went out with guys who were nice, guys like Bobby who would keep my secrets safe and defend my honor whenever it was questioned. I can thank Bobby for making me see the good in people, I wear my cold sores like a badge now, a badge that says, “My first kiss ever was with a really nice boy who happened to have a cold sore that he shared with me and just like his kindness, it’s everlasting.”


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