by Minter Krotzer
In eighth grade we had make-out parties. There was music and dancing while the parents watched TV upstairs. Whoever was dating at the time would go in the corners and make out to a song—something by Barry Manilow, Elton John, or Captain & Tennille. For those of us who didn’t have boyfriends, there were snacks—bowls of Doritos, onion dip, and Sweetheart candies. We pretended not to look at the couples making out in the dark corners, but you could hear the click of braces, the popping sound of the rubber bands, and deep breathing. Sometimes when a friend would come out of a session, she’d bring us to the bathroom so she could show us her hickeys. We’d compare sizes. At school, the girls with hickeys acted embarrassed, but you could tell they were secretly proud and hoped that their hickey would last as long as possible. Sometimes at home I’d pinch my neck to see if I could make my own, but they never turned out the same.
My first making-out sessions were not until later on, and they were not with the boys I had hoped for. They were with my step cousin, Jimmy C., who was so bad that he had been kicked out of every high school in Northern Mississippi. I’d see him on holidays, when he returned home briefly from reform school in Virginia. Bored, we’d stay up late and listen to Led Zeppelin, drink beer, and lie on my grandmother’s Chippendale sofa under the portrait of Dorothea, a relative from long ago, whose eyes seemed to be watching everything with dismay. Jimmy C.’s face was covered in acne, and I could feel each zit rubbing against my face. Afraid that I would somehow catch his skin condition, I’d push his face away from mine, and he’d end up at my neck, nuzzling away. Sure enough I got my first hickey, but I felt weird that it came from my cousin, or step cousin for that matter, and wore a bandana around my neck to cover it up. Years later, when I was older, I’d get them and not even notice. I had learned by then to call them “passion marks.”