This story is about how lucky number seven got me laid.
Well, sorta. I snuck in a bit of hyperbole there.
It’s more about bowling. And about how much of an awkward mess I was at thirteen.
I don’t know what I’d do without bowling.
I mean, it was a stupid game. Nobody else my age seemed to do it. Except, of course, the other kids in my bowling league. It wasn’t cool, it wasn’t very popular, and most kids only did it on weird family outings or little kid’s birthday parties, usually at the places with glow-in-the-dark pins, balls, lanes, and colourful murals on the walls depicting outer-space scenes.
My name is Wynn. And I knew my life was a complete gong show. I was an awkward, confused, bundle of mixed up thoughts and emotions. I didn’t fit in, didn’t really have friends, didn’t know how to get friends, didn’t know why I couldn’t figure out things, social things, that the other kids at school seemed to be born understanding, and didn’t know what to do about any of that. And with a name like Wynn, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the other kids’ favorite nickname for me was at school.
But at least I could go bowling every Saturday morning and pretend I fit in somewhere. For a few hours anyway.
Of course, I’m talking about five pin bowling here. I know it used to be, by far, the most popular form of bowling in Canada, but seems to be losing out these days to ten pin. And that’s really a shame, because it’s fun.
The owner of the bowling alley where we play says that Canada is the only place in the world where five pin bowling is played. That surprised me. It seems so common here. I don’t know of too many bowling alleys that aren’t a combination of half five pin lanes and half ten pin lanes.
Anyway, if you’ve never heard of five pin bowling, here’s how it works. The lanes are the same size, pretty much, as a ten pin bowling lane. Except the gutters are smaller. That’s because the ball is smaller. The bowling ball doesn’t have any holes in it for your fingers. Instead, they’re about five inches in diameter, weigh a bit over three and half pounds, and are held in the one hand. Kind of like a really big, heavy grapefruit.
Obviously, there are five pins. The pins are a bit smaller than the pins used in ten pin bowling, maybe about three quarters of the size. They’re set up in a V shape, with the headpin at the front middle. Unlike in ten pin bowling, in five pin the different pins are worth a different amount of points for knocking them down. The centre pin is worth five points. The two pins to the left and right, and back slightly, of the centre pin are worth three points each. The two corner pins, left and right, are worth two points each.
This means, of course, that all the pins together are worth fifteen points.
And you get up to three attempts per frame to knock them down instead of two as in ten pin.
So, this leads to some interesting variations in scoring compared to ten pin. A perfect game is 450 points. Like in ten pin, a strike is scored by adding the strike’s total pinfall in that frame, fifteen of course, plus the next two throws. A spare is worth fifteen plus the pinfall of the next throw. So, a strike followed by two more strikes is forty five points. A strike followed by a spare is worth thirty. If you end up knocking down all the pins in the third throw of the frame then it’s scored as fifteen points total for the frame, and instead of being called a strike or spare, it’s just called a fifteen.
At almost fourteen years old I wasn’t all that good at bowling. I wasn’t all that bad either. I was just average in my league for a bunch of kids playing once a week purely for recreation. My average seemed to hover around 160 this year. Not that I really paid much attention to that, or really cared. Like the other kids there every Saturday morning, we were there for a few hours of fun. Mostly talking, joking, maybe playing a few video games on one of the old coin operated machines the owner still had around the building, and, between all this, throwing a few bowling balls down the lane. Also, more importantly for me at least, feeling like a normal kid. Almost. The kids I bowled with mostly weren’t from my school. They didn’t know about me. They didn’t know I was an outcast. That I didn’t know how to fit in. So I could pretend. I even managed to laugh and talk and joke with the kids there. Well, a bit more than usual anyway. The usual being zero.
Teams were four kids each. My team this year was myself, Karen, Steve, and as of three weeks ago a new kid named Cory.
Karen and I had an understanding. We had awkwardly reached this understanding after having kissed just outside the girl’s bathroom at the beginning of the year. Well, she kissed me. I didn’t really kiss back. Just stood there frozen, my bowling shoes still hanging from my fingers, not knowing what to do, while she kissed me.
I knew she kinda liked me. She knew I kinda liked her too. But ‘liked’ as someone to spend a few hours with every Saturday morning. And joke with, and share a pop and a hotdog with. As a friend. Not to kiss. That just felt...weird.
So, now she didn’t try to kiss me. Just looked at me a lot. And touched my arm a lot. And laughed louder at the things I said than at the things other people said. It was...weird. Especially since I wasn’t used to anyone laughing at the things I said. Except derisively, of course.
Steve was fun. He didn’t talk a whole lot, but when he did it was almost always clever and made everyone laugh. He seemed to always be watching everyone, and knew what was going to happen before it happened. He smiled a lot, which was good, because when he wasn’t smiling, and when he thought no one was looking, he sometimes looked sad. Usually more towards the end of the bowling for that day when his mom was going to pick him up.
I wondered why. But I didn’t know him well enough to ask. Of course, I didn’t know anyone well enough to ask them such personal things, but that’s another story. He caught me looking at him once, when he was looking sad, when it was almost time to go home for the day. He just shrugged, smiled at my expression, whatever it might have been, and said cryptically, “I was an accident.” Then he walked out to his Mom’s car.
Cory joined us in November. It took a while before I could figure him out. He was about my age. But even quieter than me. Which was saying a lot. Except he didn’t seem to be lacking in confidence like me. Just, I don’t know, he just seemed careful. Not wary, just careful. I don’t know if that makes sense.
But I did figure out he was smart. I knew I was fairly smart too, not that it really seemed to help me much in life, but I did know Cory was smart. He dressed better than the rest of us, too. Not more expensive, just more carefully. Like it mattered. It never mattered to me. Especially for Saturday bowling. Jeans and t-shirt for me, as long as the weren’t too dirty, they were good enough for bowling. Cory though, when he did wear a t-shirt, it was always something out of the ordinary, with an unusual clever saying, or detailed graphics, or something. He often wore jeans too, but his always looked a bit nicer than my ratty old ones, and were almost always skinny jeans. As often as not, though, he wore fancy joggers or chinos. When he didn’t wear a t-shirt instead he wore a smart looking button up shirt. Whatever it was he chose for the day, you could tell it was fresh out of the laundry that morning.
I’m not sure why I noticed. I didn’t pay much attention to what Karen wore. Or Steve for that matter.
After the first few weeks his personality started to come out a bit more, too. I liked him. I liked how he always looked right into an adult’s eyes when he was talking to them. I couldn’t do that. And he always called them Sir or Ma’am, whether it was the guy who owned the bowling alley or the scary looking super strong looking girl, Melissa, who ran to the back to fix the jammed machines every time it happened during a game, or the parents watching, or Mrs. Baxter, the really old lady who ran the concession. Once, after Mrs. Baxter gave him his orange pop Cory smiled at her and said, “How about a date next Saturday? I’m thinking dancing.”
I mean, she’s at least ninety years old!
But, she just smiled at him, the biggest smile I’d ever seen from her, and her eyes lit up, and she said, “Oh, think you could keep up with me, do you?” Then she laughed. So did Cory, then he just walked away carrying his pop, me following.
We got back to our lane and I just looked at him. He must’ve seen from my expression that I was trying to figure out what that was all about. He just shrugged and said, “She was having a bad day.”
I had no idea how he knew that. She just looked the same as always to me.
I liked how when someone got a gutter ball he always said something like, “Don’t worry about it. Next one’s a strike for sure!” and sounded like he meant it, especially to the little kids in lanes one to four.
And I liked his hair. I didn’t really pay much attention to people’s hair. But I noticed his. For some weird reason I kept wondering what it would feel like to run my hand through those dark brown soft looking curls.
The Saturday morning while five pin bowling that changed my life started like any other Saturday morning.
“Mom! We’re gonna be late!” She was still upstairs doing whatever Moms do when they walk endlessly back and forth between the bedroom, bathroom, closet, and everywhere else.
“Just a minute, Wynn. I’ll be right down.”
I sighed and plopped myself down on the sofa to wait. I knew it would be more than a minute.
Five minutes later Mom came down the stairs with her car keys in hand. “Okay Wynn, let’s go.” She smiled at me. “And hurry up! We’re going to be late!”
I rolled my eyes, but got up and walked outside to the car.
We weren’t late. But it was close. I barely had time to get my shoes on and throw a couple of practice balls before the first game started. “Hi Wynn,” Cory said from behind me as I watched my second practice ball roll down the right gutter.
I sighed at my gutter ball, turned around, and looked over at Cory standing beside the scoring table. “Hi Cory.”
He was wearing a blue t-shirt today, some kind of stretchy, almost shiny material. It had stars and nebulas and comets and stuff on the front and the design swept around to left side. His pants were light brown Chinos. And, of course, he was wearing his bowling shoes. Wondering why I always noticed that stuff when I never noticed with anyone else, I continued, “Where’s Karen and Steve?”
Cory pointed. “Steve’s just over there getting his shoes on. Karen is standing about a quarter inch from your right elbow, just behind you now.” He grinned at me as I looked over, saw her standing at almost the exact distance he said, and jumped in surprise.
“Hi Karen,” I said, walking off the lane and into the seats, trying to put a bit of distance between us.
She had followed me, so the distance thing hadn’t worked. She touched my right arm with her left hand before answering. “Hi Wynn. How was your week?”
Steve had joined us by then, and I saw him and Cory look at each and grin as they watched Karen stalk me. I sat down at the scoring table and began writing our names on the scoresheet with the stubby pencil. For some weird reason we had to do the scores on paper, the old fashioned way, despite perfectly good computerized machines sitting right in front of us ready to do it all for us. The league council said something about making sure we understood the game, and math, and other boring stuff when asked about it. Whatever. We were used to it by now.
Looking at the scoresheet instead of Karen, I answered her, “It was fine.” I stopped there. I mean, it really wasn’t all that good a week, but I knew none of them were all that interested in that, and I didn’t want to look like an idiot by saying how I was insulted and ignored, and how the gym teacher embarrassed me in front of the whole class.
It only takes so long to write down four names, no matter how slowly you do it, so I looked up. Cory was looking right at me. His face was inscrutable, but his eyes told me that he knew I wasn’t being exactly honest. But he didn’t say anything. Just kept looking at me.
Fortunately, the other team was ready to go now too. I nodded at James sitting at the scoring table beside me for the other lane we were paired with, then said to Cory, “You’re up. Go get a strike.”
Cory stopped looking at me and walked onto the left lane, picking up his ball. Sarah from the other team did the same to Cory’s right. Cory nodded at Sarah and took a step back and let her, on the right, go first so they wouldn’t distract each other on their throw. Sarah took her stance, made her strides and bowled her ball. Ouch. A headpin. Dead down the middle, leaving the three and two on either side. Pretty much an impossible spare. I gave her an empathetic look as her teammates told her not to worry about it and just go for a fifteen.
She stepped back while waiting for the pins to reset and for her ball to get returned by the machine, and Cory took his starting stance.
He focused on the pins, then on the floor marks, and began his approach. We watched the ball roll down the lane. He and the rest of us knew instantly it was going to be a five as we watched it drift gradually too far to the right, hitting the three and two on that side.
Cory just shrugged as he turned around and looked at us. “Spare it up, Cory,” Steve told him. “No problem.”
We watched Sarah knock down the left five while Cory waited for the machine to reset the pins and send his ball back. He was looking at me again. I didn’t know what it meant, but I suspected it had nothing to do with bowling. I didn’t have a clue what to do with that, so I just said, “Knock ‘em all down, Cory.”
He nodded, turned, and did just that.
“Nice spare, Cory!” I told him as he turned around with a satisfied look.
“Steve, you’re up,” I told him as Cory walked off the lane, “Let’s keep it going. Check frame.”
And it was. Steve got a strike, followed by Karen’s spare and a spare from me. Not a bad start at all.
Cory and Steve high fived me as I came off the lane, and Karen squeezed my arm while smiling at me.
Then we had to wait. The team beside us hadn’t been as lucky in their first frame and their third was just finishing his third shot, which he missed badly, leaving him with twelve on the frame. Now we still had to wait for their fourth player, James, to finish and free up the right lane before Cory could try to capitalize on his spare.
That meant we had a minute or two, depending on how James did.
Karen had gone to the concession to get a drink since she knew she had a few minutes before her turn. Steve was sitting beside Sarah smiling and joking about something.
That left Cory, sitting on the bench to my left, and me, now sitting down again at the scoring table with nothing to do as Steve had already marked in my spare for me.
Cory was quietly looking at me again. Unsurprisingly, the last five minutes hadn’t miraculously gifted me with the sudden ability to make comfortable small talk, so instead I focused my attention on James who was just making his approach on his first shot.
He managed thirteen, a fairly easy spare, but then we waited while the shutter for the pin resetting machine came down, jerked up an inch, came down, jerked up an inch, and repeated. James sighed and immediately looked towards the front counter to try to get someone’s attention. We all knew what had happened. It happened way too often here. The machines were ancient and jammed all the time. We needed to wait for Melissa to run back, do whatever she did back there when this happened, and make things work again. James caught her eye as she was just running down the walkway between lanes, way down at the other end, back from fixing another jam. She nodded and ran over. We watched her walk up a walkway three lanes down, disappear through the little door, then could see the occasional foot or hand behind the half closed shutter as she worked to free up the jam.
A moment later the shutter rose, the pins now set properly, and the ball return did its thing.
I glanced over at Cory. And found his eyes were still firmly on me.
Somewhere I found it within me to smile at him and say, “What?”
He took a few seconds before answering, a bit of a sideways smile on his face. “Mrs. Baxter at the concession won’t go dancing with me. So I need a date for next weekend.”
Immediate full blown panic filled me.
I mean, I wasn’t completely stupid. Even me, with my ongoing struggle to figure out what the hell was going on in social situations, could see the possible implications here.
Was he asking to just make coversation? Or was he asking me for a date?!
I had absolutely no idea what to do with that. This was a minefield! What if I were imagining it and he wasn’t asking me on a date, or hinting at anything like that, and I said something wrong and made myself look like an idiot? Even worse what if he did mean it that way?
Was he gay? What about me? I knew far too well about my own internal struggles on the subject the last year or so. But what would it mean for me if he did mean it that way? And what did he mean by a date?! What do you do on a date? I mean, it’s not like we were sixteen and had a car or money for dinner or anything like that. Would he want to….
I know how I must have looked. I could feel my heart racing. I knew my eyes were wide. I knew my mouth was hanging open. I knew I was staring at him, speechless.
He took pity on me and let me off the hook. “James got a spare. I’m up.”
He stood up, walked by me brushing his right elbow against my left shoulder while he walked by towards the ball return, and picked up his ball.
He managed a thirteen, missing the right cornerpin on his third attempt. Between each throw while waiting for his ball he just kept looking at me. I couldn’t figure out the expression on his face.
My turn came up. I was still pretty close to being in panic mode. I couldn’t seem to get my hand dried off to hold the ball properly despite holding it over the blower and wiping it a hundred times on my ratty jeans. I bowled a gutter ball.
Rolling my eyes I turned around to walk the few steps back to the ball return.
Cory was looking at me again. But this time he just shrugged at my gutter ball. “Don’t worry about it. You must’ve been distracted by something. You’ll get it next time.”
He was right of course. I was distracted. By him.
I only managed a measly five before I sat down again. Cory and Karen looked at me sympathetically. Steven just looked back and forth between and Cory, his brows knitted in thought.
I vowed to myself to pull it together. I decided to wait until Cory and I had a chance to talk more. I wanted to figure out what he meant. I decided to wait until he was more direct. After all, ‘so I need a date next weekend’ while looking directly at me with a questioning look wasn’t direct. Was it?
So, with that in mind I went back up to the concession and bought myself a bag of chips. Remembering Cory’s approach I made extra sure to smile at Mrs. Baxter and be real polite to her. I received a wide smile and extra twinkling in her eyes as a reward. And a nod towards Cory. “He’s a good one, isn’t he?” she asked.
Puzzled, I answered, “Sure. I like him.” Then I realized what she might be implying, and what my answer might also imply. I felt my face turn to fire and suddenly it was furnace hot in the bowling alley. I couldn’t talk.
But Mrs. Baxter just kept smiling. “Me too,” she said. Then she winked at me. I’m certain of it.
I didn’t know what to think. So I just turned around and began walking back towards my lane, then had to double back to grab my forgotten bag of chips and smile back at Mrs. Baxter’s gentle smile towards me and turn around again to get back to our lane.
It was my turn. I dropped my unopened bag of chips on the table and stepped up on the lane taking my ball from the ball return. Remembering Mrs. Baxter’s smile I smiled to myself a bit, then began my approach. Right on the money. An unambiguous strike. I smiled and turned around to see my teammates grinning at me. I returned their fist bumps as I sat down at the scoring table and marked in my strike in the third frame with the little stubby pencil.
The next frame, the fourth, I again bowled a strike. Barely. The left corner pin wobbled for ages before falling over. But down it went.
In the fifth, Cory bowled a gutter ball followed by the left five, followed by the right five. Leaving a single erect headpin alone standing proudly in the centre of the lane, wobbling ever so slightly. Somehow I couldn’t take my eyes off of it until the pin setting machine took it away.
I looked over at Cory stepping down from the lane. He smiled at me and waggled his eyebrows.
I can’t imagine he had been thinking what I was thinking.
A few minutes later I had to interrupt Steven and Karen’s conversation on Trudeau’s recent announcement of the upcoming legalization of marijuana. “You’re up Karen. And it’ll be minimum eighteen years old from what I heard. But the provinces are gonna set the age, not the federal government. So lots will have it higher. My mom thinks most will match it with their drinking age.”
Karen stood up and grabbed her bowling ball. She smiled at me. “That’s what my dad says too. I guess that makes sense. It’d be weird to be able to drink at eighteen but not smoke marijuana until you’re twenty one. Or some other age. It’s kinda the same thing.” She hesitated a beat, turning the ball round and round in her hands, then continued. “But doctors are saying the brain isn’t done developing yet at eighteen, so it should be higher.” She shrugged, stepped up on the lane and bowled. A spare after she knocked down the left five on her first ball.
I was still thinking about the conversation when I stepped up for the fifth frame. Maybe that’s what helped. I didn’t even hesitate and bowled another strike. My third in a row. I jumped up and let out a whoop. It was very rare that I managed three in a row.
The fist bumps were a bit more exuberant this time. After Steven’s fist bump he grabbed my shoulders, turned me around, and sent me forcefully towards Cory for my fist bump with him.
I was still mulling over Steven’s actions when I went up for my next turn. I looked at my mark, looked at the pins, and began my approach.
You always know long before the ball leaves your hand if it’s any good or not. You can just feel it somehow. I knew this time too. I completed my follow through already knowing it was going to be another good one.
It was. Strike. Again! I grinned and hopped up and down a couple of times. Four in a row!!
This time my teammates gave me shoulder claps and back pats. Lots of the parents sitting at the tables behind the lanes smiled at me and said nice things like, “Nice job Wynn. Great strike!”
And Cory gave me a little sideways hug. Accompanied by a grin and another eyebrow waggle.
I escaped to the bathroom since I had no idea how to react.
The next frame resulted in another strike. Yup, five in a row. That was the first time, ever, that I had managed that. I turned around to a mild ovation from my teammates and several other players watching from nearby lanes. The parents above seemed a bit more numerous too. I didn’t know how to react to the clapping and nice comments.
So I just blushed and sat down.
Cory sat down beside me. Fortunately he didn’t say anything. Because I knew I would have no idea how to respond. But he sat down real close to me. Real close. Like, his leg was touching mine close.
I couldn’t figure out if this was a good thing, because it completely got my mind off of my stupid reaction to everyone after my fifth strike, or a bad thing because now I had no idea what to do with Cory. Should I not move, like a statue? Should I move away slightly or maybe get up? But then maybe he’d be hurt. Or maybe I was reading it wrong. Or I could press my leg back slightly against his, increasing the pressure. God no! No doubt I was imagining all of this, and then I’d never, ever be able to live down his reaction.
I was still trying to figure out what to do when he suddenly stood up. Thinking I had offended him somehow I quickly looked up from my bowling shoes and into his eyes.
He must have seen the worried expression on my face. He just smiled and said, “I’m up. It’s my turn.”
He bowled a strike.
Luckily after that he sat down at the scoring table and marked his strike on the scoresheet instead of sitting right beside me. Luckily. So it was weird that I was somehow a bit disappointed.
I was still thinking about this as I began my windup in the eighth frame. At the same time I was half listening to Steven and Sarah continuing the marijuana legalization discussion. I didn’t even remember my approach and followthrough as I watched the ball roll down and hit the five and three perfectly to result in another solid strike.
I didn’t even move this time. I was still staring down the lane, not really believing it. Six in a row? Six? In a row? That didn’t happen. Not to me. And I couldn’t even really remember how it did.
I turned around. Weirdly, it seemed like more than half the people in the bowling alley were now huddled near my lane, watching. The ovation was rather louder than last time.
I didn’t embarrass myself quite as much this time. I smiled and gave a weak wave. I think I blushed even harder though.
Cory sat down beside me again. His leg was touching mine again. And he kept looking at me, grinning. He seemed to open his mouth to say something about five times between the time he sat down until he got up again when it was his turn. But he didn’t.
My leg felt a bit cold when he got up and walked on to the lane.
Then, after Steven and Karen’s turns, I was up again.
Six strikes. Now I was thinking about it.
How could I not?
It seemed like most everyone in the bowling alley was watching me as I picked up my ball. Most were already yelling encouragment. “One more, Wynn!” and, “You can do it, Wynn!” and, “Looking good, Wynn!!”
Oddly, that last one I could have sworn was yelled in Cory’s voice.
I was hyper aware of everything as I stood looking down the alley at the pins. I could feel the ball in my hand, my fingers splayed around it. I could feel everyone’s eyes on me even though I was turned away from them. I felt every step as I began my wind-up and approach. I adjusted my wrist ever so slightly clockwise as I brought my arm forward on my third stride because it didn’t feel quite right. I think that’s what did it. The ball felt good as it rolled off the end of my fingertips and hit the alley with a satisfying thud right where I wanted it and rolled purposefully towards the pins.
I watched it as it rolled. I knew before it was halfway down the alley that it had a good chance. Maybe, just maybe.
It hit the pins.
I bowled another strike.
Seven in a row!! Holy crap! I jumped up and down and whooped it up. The applause was amazing! I couldn’t believe anything I had done could result in such a thing. That had never happened to me before in my entire life.
Karen kept gushing and touching my arm. Steven was grinning and making stupid jokes. Cory was nowhere to be found. Much to my disappointment. I wanted him to see.
Then I saw him. Standing nearby, his arms crossed, a proud smile on his face. He grinned and nodded at me and I suddenly felt even better.
The tenth frame. Cory went up to take his final turn of the game. I was watching of course. He threw his ball and managed a strike himself, and then awaited the machine to reset itself for his next two balls since it was the tenth frame.
But the machine jammed again.
I looked around for Melissa. Cory was doing the same thing. Only she was down at the other end of the alley, already behind the little door trying to fix a jam at lane four. Obviously this was a bad one. It seemed to be taking her a while.
Cory and I looked at each while we watched the machine on his lane bounce the shutter up and down, attempting fruitlessly to free the jam.
We waited another three minutes, not really knowing what to do. Then Cory looked at me, grinned an evil grin, and beckoned me over with two fingers. I got up and walked up onto the lane where he was standing.
“Let’s go fix it,” he said. He nodded towards the walkway and little access door three lanes down from where we were standing.
I just looked at him. “Us? What do you mean?”
He motioned at lane four. “Melissa is taking forever. It’s up to us to be the heroes. Let’s do it.” He was kind of bouncing up and down on his toes, and looking at me with an encouraging grin.
“But...We’re not allowed back there.”
“So? You just bowled seven strikes. I’ll bet that gives you some leeway.”
I just stared at him. I wasn’t the kind of kid to break rules. I wasn’t the kind of kid to take risks. Ever.
Then, just like that, I realized something. Maybe that was part of the problem? Maybe that’s why I seemed to be so messed up. So lonely. Maybe I needed to try something a bit different. Why not? After all I had just bowled seven strikes!
I had no idea why that was relevant but at the time it somehow seemed very convincing.
So I finally grinned back at Cory, surprising even myself, and nodded.
Cory began walking confidently down the little pathway between the lanes. I followed. Considerably less confidently. But I followed nonetheless.
Cory opened the little door and we hunched down and walked through it.
I stood up and looked around.
Ever since I was little kid I had liked machinery. Mom always said I would stand at the window for hours at three years old when they were repaving our street and just watch the heavy machinery. I gazed around at the ball return machinery and pin setter machinery and half my brain tried to figure out how it all worked together. The other half of my brain realized that Cory’s hand kept brushing up against mine. That got my attention enough so that I turned to look at him.
“Seven strikes in a row, huh?” Cory was grinning at me. There wasn’t much room back there so he was standing real close. And it was awfully loud. So he was yelling.
I smiled back, and as I stood there in the middle of all that loud machinery, thinking about my game, somehow I didn’t feel at all awkward or shy. I felt myself grinning as the words tumbled out of my mouth telling him what I was thinking and how it felt when I saw the pins fall on the seventh strike.
I was halfway through a sentence, explaining how nervous I had been on my approach during my last turn, when I realized that Cory was now standing much closer to me. The toes of my bowling shoes were almost touching the toes of his bowling shoes. My t-shirt clad chest was about a quarter inch away from his shiny space-scene t-shirt, a comet on his chest almost touching my left nipple. His face, his lips, were mere inches away from mine. Somehow I found the first two fingers of my left hand being held ever so lightly between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand.
I stopped talking mid sentence. It was hot in there, and the temperature seemed to be increasing exponentially as I watched Cory’s tongue play across his lips, moistening them. I felt myself blinking. I began trembling ever so slightly. It was hard to breathe.
A loud crash of somehow bowling a strike two lanes down barely made me blink. I looked from Cory’s lips up to his eyes. He was just gazing serenely at me, giving away nothing, being careful.
I’m not the kind of kid to take risks. I never had been.
But I’m not completely stupid. And I’d just bowled seven strikes in a row.
As my eyes slid away from his eyes and back upon his lips, being moistened with his tongue once again I knew that if I didn’t take a risk here and now that I’d end up regretting it, maybe for the rest of my life.
So I took a risk.
I leaned forward. I tilted my head slightly to the left.
And I kissed Cory.
As kisses go maybe it wasn’t much. But the moment his soft lips touched mine I was not the same kid that climbed out of bed a few hours ago on a Saturday morning ready to go bowling.
Cory’s arms came around me. I reciprocated, and our lips came together again.
I had no idea. So the stories I had read weren’t massive exaggeration after all. I really had no idea I could feel like this.
I didn’t really have much experience in kissing to fall back on, just Karen’s attempt way back when. So I wasn’t really all that sure what I was supposed to be doing. Cory seemed about the same.
But we were sure having fun trying to figure it out.
The kissing went on for ages it seemed though it couldn’t have been more than a minute or two. Then I realized to my huge surprise that it wasn’t just our arms, our chests, that were pressing against each other. I could feel his hardness pressed against mine. Not grinding or anything weird. Just, kinda, pressing.
And it was the most arousing thing I had ever felt in all my life.
All while pins clattered, balls banged (no, the bowling balls), and the jammed machine continued to fruitlessly cycle.
I have no idea how long we would’ve gone on if Melissa didn’t catch us.
When I realized she was standing there I swear I almost peed my pants. I had always been frightened of Melissa. She was huge. She was strong. She was just scary! I jumped back from Cory and just looked at her.
Then I realized she was just standing there grinning and shaking her head. “Really, guys? Here?” is all she said.
Cory seemed unfazed. He just looked around at the loud industrial machinery while he wiped his lips with his right arm, “Kinda romantic, isn’t it?”
Melissa, continuing to shake her head, just motioned at us, “Get out of my way guys. I’ve got a machine to un-jam. And you gotta get out of here before you get in trouble.”
Cory just nodded and grinned, then motioned for me to follow him. We hunched down through the little door again and walked back down the little path between the lanes. Most didn’t seem to notice us, but a few kids and parents were looking curiously at us. So was Mrs. Baxter behind he concession stand. For some reason she was smiling widely. I’m certain she winked at me.
Strangely, I found myself winking back. I never would have thought I had it in me. That made her smile light up her whole face.
Cory took his bowling ball and finished his turn, managing a spare after his strike. A few minutes later I was up for the last frame of the game.
I didn’t get a strike. With most everyone in the building watching me I released the ball stiffly, with almost no follow through. I managed a five on my first throw and then the other two pin on my second, and missed entirely with my third, the ball sailing through the space previously occupied by the left five, leaving me with seven points on the tenth frame.
But, once things were tallied up, wow what a score!
The final score on my game was pretty good too.
So was our date the following Saturday. But that’s another story.