The Magic at the Mountain
We left church just as the sun was rising, packed into a van, with our youth pastor and a parent in the front seat, engrossed in their own boring topics of conversation. In the seventh grade, it was just me and the boys, unless I could convince April to join us for an event. My agnostic school friend hadn’t really been interested in the roller coasters, so it was just David, Douglas, Samuel, and me for the day. I can’t remember the exact conversation – how it even started, but it was decided somewhere between Escondido and Valencia that the boys would take turns playing the part of my boyfriend throughout the day. I figured that Samuel would say something about how I was supposed to stay pure– untouched until I married, but surprisingly he had just silently agreed to our planned fun for the day. I always fought my urge to touch a boy, but my loins had so much a stronger pull than my intellect.
As we passed under the power lines of the nuclear plant at San Onofre, one of the boys suggested we hold our breath. We were doing pretty well until my eyes met Samuel’s. He couldn’t sustain a stare at me when I scrunched my nose and narrowed my eyes. He let out an uncharacteristic giggle along with his held breath, and all four of us erupted into laughter.
In line waiting for Viper, Douglas held my hand and smiled so hard I was afraid his face might crack. I used my giggles, side glances, and raised eyebrow to deflect the discomfort raising in my chest. David put his arm around my waist and tried to play it cool as we waited to get on Cyclone. He hugged me after and gave me a slight wink.
By design, I had saved the pastor’s second son, Samuel, for last. He was the only one of the three that I would consider a first kiss with, and certainly the only one whose last name I had signed at the end of my own in my journal at home. Samuel just stood next to me. He talked to me like he always did, and he told me he wanted to make sure I was strapped in right on Batman. It was my favorite ride.
As we got off of that last ride, I tried to kiss Samuel’s cheek, but he dodged me right at the last minute. “This isn’t the way to do it, you know.”
“Do what?” I asked him, as if I didn’t know.
“You can’t find a real connection by just trying us all on. I like you, but I think you’re dangerous. I couldn’t ever be with you. I worry about you.” Samuel’s judgmental gaze felt fell heavy on me.
On the ride home, I was far more aware of the adults in the front seat. It felt like they knew how much I wanted to kiss Samuel. David and Douglas had either taken Samuel’s side or were just too tired to engage. I glanced at Samuel a time or two, but he was just staring toward his inland view as we headed south. As we approached San Onofre, I gently tapped his arm and held my breath. When he looked toward me, I scrunched my nose again. His blank stare hung between us even after he looked away. I turned my head toward the Pacific, wondering how far the reflection of the moon was from our van.
CLS Sandoval, PhD (she/her) is a writer and communication professor with accolades in film, academia, and creative writing who speaks, signs, acts, publishes, sings, performs, writes, paints, teaches and rarely relaxes. She has presented over 50 times at communication conferences, published 15 academic articles, two academic books, and five poetry/flash collections. She is raising her daughter and dog with her husband in Alhambra, CA.