I was a late bloomer.
In seventh grade, I had one close male friend: A. A. was just my height, slim, with wispy black hair always in need of a trim, and the shadow of a mustache blooming on his lip. His voice was gentle and he put a mouth over his hand when he laughed, like a Japanese schoolgirl.
I was a chunky girl with thick glasses, a clumsy haircut, and a ready braying laugh, always carrying a stack of books.
He never talked to me about girls, not even my pretty friends. I think maybe I had decided he wasn’t interested in girls, though I never gave it much conscious thought.
One day as we walked down the hallway together, talking in desultory fashion of the Honors English class we’d left, A. suddenly pushed me into the nook that housed the drinking fountain. Trapped there in the cinder-block corner, I opened my eyes wide, and closed my gaping mouth just in time as he loomed in and planted a kiss on me.
He pulled back, looked me softly in the eyes, a question on his face.
Reader, I punched him.
Really. I don’t know where this instinct was born. I didn’t intend it, I was ashamed of it then, and I’m ashamed of it now. (Though a little less, now that it occurs to me that he’s probably not ashamed of springing an unsuspected, unwanted kiss on a friend.) I hauled off and socked him in the eye. He sported a faint shadow of a black eye for days, a week… I don’t really know how long, since we stopped spending much time together after that.