Tubthumping, of all songs, brings me instantly back to the late fall of 1997. There were six of us around the bonfire that night at Joe’s farm, sitting close to fight off the cold. Jenny laid her head on my arm and I wrapped our blanket tighter around us. My thirteen-year-old body was acutely aware of every single point where it met with hers, even through two winter coats. My pulse reacted accordingly, and I smiled what Joe later called a “shit-eating grin.” Tim had brought his boom box, and after finding a good spot for it on a nearby fencepost was able to tune in 104.1, the only source of good music we had. We were right in the middle of the weekend countdown, and number four that night was a new song by a group of Brits with the unlikely name of Chumbawamba.
I get knocked down/But I get up again/You’re never gonna keep me down!
Warmed by fires both in front of me and within me, I got a strange idea in my head. I proposed a game of cornlage tag.
I led everyone across the driveway to a silo with a pile of finely-chopped corn husks at its base. The pile was about 10 feet tall and covered more square footage than a two car garage. To this day, I don’t know what it was there for, but Joe and I had discovered earlier in the fall that it could be pretty fun as far as corn goes. It was solid enough that you wouldn’t sink into it if you tried to walk on it, and yet was as springy as a foam cushion. We even gave it a name, cornlage, figuring it was related to silage.
We also noticed that it was always warm, a byproduct of composting. It would probably have smelled terrible if it weren’t for the biting cold and wind. However, we refused to let these mood-killing thoughts into our heads and we all raced up the side. We started chasing each other around, Tim, Joe and I pursuing Theresa, Amber and Jenny, all of us laughing.
I quickly caught up to Jenny and grabbed her in a flying tackle, as finesse was foreign to me. With a last minute thought of concern and chivalry, I twisted as we fell, hoping to land under her instead of driving her head first into the cornlage.
Lying on my back and laughing, I caught a whiff of our playing field, and it was oddly sweet. I looked up to the sky, and was struck by how bright the stars seemed. I blinked and Jenny’s face was mere inches from mine. She swung her leg over me and pinned me without protest. My jacket was open and I could feel her hands, quite warm, moving across my chest. I slid my arms between her coat and sweater and she leaned in. I felt her body press against mine and instantly became very aware of her breasts. I struggled to fight back nervous laughter while neither of us said a word.
The only sound was the quiet howl of the wind carrying the end chorus of Tubthumping across the yard. I could see the clouds of Jenny’s breath escaping in short, full bursts and disappearing into the windy night air, and yet I felt extremely warm. I closed my eyes and had my first real kiss, lying on a pile of decomposing corn and listening to Chumbawamba.
It was perfect.
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