Keep Art Alive :: Art by Gregoire Guillemin

“Crazy way he thrills-a me,
tell you why,
just like a lightning from the sky.”

When I was a little girl my Mother used to call me Lolly, a nickname derived from the “Lollipop” song, by The Chordettes, a tune that was popular when she was a little girl, you know the one, where you hear the lip-smack-mouth-pop sound after the refrain.

I used to practice the pop sound in front of the mirror, puckering my lips up, slipping my finger inside, trying to make the right kind of snap. I would later sit in front of the same mirror trying to learn to to blow bubbles out of over-sized, artificially-fruit flavored chewing gum.

My Mother’s lipsticks were always a fascination of mine. I coveted their bold colors and interesting shiny containers, the way she would twist them until they revealed themselves, and then would so carefully apply on the top lip, then the bottom. One afternoon, whilst she was distracted on the phone with a neighbor friend, I crept into the bathroom, locking the door behind me, and pulled out my favorite. I sat cross-legged on the floor in front of that same mirror and tried to mimic the precision of top lip, then the bottom.

Fast forward to a beautiful boy who often wore this green sweater that still vividly lives in my memory. I could see him from what felt like miles, down the long school hallways, and it was like the sight of him put everything, and everyone, on pause. I had to take a step back and lean against the front of the metal lockers because I felt like my knees were giving out on me, and my breath, it was stuck like boardwalk taffy in the back of my throat. He came closer, stopping at my section of lockers, near where I was leaning for support, and he looked at me and smiled a crooked grin that I would later memorize, alone in my room, eyes closed, with just that recollected smile, and side one of The Smiths self-titled to share it with.

A few weeks later we would actually speak to one another, or in reality, he would speak and I would nervously stumble over words that sounded so much better practiced in front of that bathroom mirror. He spotted me walking to the bus after school, the tell-tale sign that I was a scholarship student who at sixteen did not have an over-sized bow tied to a “brand new car” as a “sweetheart’s” gift. He had pulled his car over to the side of the road, the window already rolled down, and shot me that crooked grin as he asked me in for a ride. He was wearing that damn green sweater and he smelled like that cologne in the green bottle, the same green as the sweater. He asked me if I had any music to play, and with those words, with that question, “my first love” began.

He started to wait for me every afternoon, and I would join him, handing him mix tapes I would carefully construct the night before, staying up late, making sure each song worked, made sense, sent secret messages of devotion out into the air between us. He had other friends, too, that would climb into the car with us, and after awhile I became a part of them, we all became a part of each other. Sometimes we would stop at the mall before going home, we would pile into a booth at Carl’s Jr. and order sodas and fries. It was right next to this restaurant that had a cigarette machine in its lobby, unattended, and we would take turns at who would slip the smoothed out dollars into the brightly lit box, each of us buying stale, over-priced, but no-I.D.-necessary, packs of Marlboro 100’s.

He asked if I smoked and I lied, saying yes, taking one out and slipping it between my lips. I was not quite sure what to do next except lean forward, into the flame, as he held out a lighter to me (green, of course). I did not know to inhale, I waited, leaning in as the flame started to burn the end, with no ignition happening. I looked at him and said, quietly, “mine’s not working“, and he leaned closer and whispered, “you have to take a breath in while the flame hits it, suck it a bit, like a lollipop“. My cheeks blushed, and my hands shook, as embarrassment bled through my insides, but he just smiled crookedly, softly, taking one of my hands in his, and did not call me out. This would be the first secret we kept for the other.

He slipped the pack in my purse when he dropped me off. As I hugged him he said “these are yours now“. That night, after my Mother left with a friend, and my little brother was tucked into bed, I sat cross-legged in front of the mirror and practiced. I watched the way I looked with the cigarette between my lips, puckering and pouting around it, pretending to light it with a snap of my fingers, breathing in, imagining it a sucker that I was trying to get to the end of. Picturing his lips around his cigarette, pressing down, breathing in the flame. Picturing his lips on mine.

Lollipop :: The Chordettes

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