Friday, February 18, 2011
Roy Rogers and Dale Evans
Normally, we wouldn't ride across Indian country. The native populations were under increasing pressure in this region and we tried to respect their villages. In retrospect, it was a dumb decision to take the shortcut across tribal land. We were tired. Our horses were nearing exhaustion. Maybe that excuses the risk we took. The arrow coming straight at me shouldn't have been a surprise. I flinched. Something stung my temple. Blood sprinkled my shirt.
Roy drew his gun and fired into the sky. He threw a glance at me.
"I'm okay," I said.
He took off in pursuit of the scouting party, which scattered and melted into the pines. Trigger looped back to where my horse and I stood. Sweat streaked the palomino's pale hide. Trigger sidled close. Roy leaned in and laid gentle fingers against my cheek bone.
"They're gone. We should get moving if you're okay. That arrow grazed you," he said. "It'll bleed, but it's not bad." Then he leaned closer and pressed warm, tender lips against my temple.
That was my first kiss. I was six. Joey was six. We were playing Roy Rogers and Dale Evans at recess. Full immersion imagination. We were at that almost sexless age wherein we didn't really understand male and female as separate or different or opposite. I'm a girl, you're a boy was something we said, but while we were beginning to anchor gender identity at that point, it wasn't yet etched in stone. A neighbor boy my mother baby sat, when told that six year old Marcella had to go take a potty break asked, "can I lift the toilet seat for her?" Mom had to explain that I did it differently than he did, so I didn't lift the seat.
Joey was as mad about Westerns as I was. He had dark, tousled hair, deep brown eyes, a lovely olive-brown complexion and a bright, quick, articulate (for a first grader) wit that appealed to me. We understood that Dale Evans was female ergo that was the part I played. Joey played Roy Rogers. Together we concocted dangerous adventures full of rattle snakes, bank robbers, escaped prisoners and the occassional misunderstanding with local native tribes. It was all okay, right? We understood that in real life Dale Evans and Roy Rogers were married. They were even parents. Everyone knew they had tons of kids they'd adopted. Heck. *I* wanted to be adopted by them, because then, I'd get to have a horse. We spoke in awed whispers of the fact that the real Trigger had died of old age and Roy had had him stuffed and Trigger stood in Roy's living room to that very day.
When Joey leaned in to kiss my temple, I went very still. Something trembled through me and I stared at my friend. He liked me. Not with any sort of budding sexual awareness, we were too young for that, still. No. This was better. He'd paid the highest compliment a six year old could bestow on another. He'd mimicked a gesture of tenderness and affection visited upon him by his mother. He'd kissed an imaginary injury better.
Not much of a first kiss you say? Oh yeah? Maybe. But I do remember that scene and that moment very vividly. Forty years later.