Tuesday, June 18, 2019

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Kisses, Punches

They were elm trees and they arched over 22nd Avenue in Vancouver on those May evenings that were perfectly warm and literally rose-tinted. Her name was Karen, she was taller than me and she was made for me. That was before I had any conception of what "made for me" might mean and before I knew it had no meaning.

They were childhood years, evenings of kissing contests, Karen and me against Mel and Gayle. Kiss kiss kiss for hours. My lips were sore when I fell asleep and again when I woke in the morning.

There must have been a family around me. There was a baseball glove and a bike and a school to ride to where Karen my liplover would be waiting in her starched white blouse covering her very small breasts which she wouldn’t let me touch, for which I think I was ambivalently glad.

None of this bliss would mean much if it had turned into adulthood and everyday unhappiness.

Jim McNeil, who was much bigger than me, punched me in the face twice before friends broke it up. I had made a smart-ass remark about his girlfriend after school one day and he came looking for me on the weekend. He grabbed me by the collar. I was afraid but the fear dissolved in a thought that I would have again in adulthood: "I can take this guy."

I stepped on his foot and pushed him back hard. But he didn’t fall. He kept his balance and punched me and I knew then that this wasn’t about winning but about being able to take a punch. Two punches. I was smiling when they pulled him off me. It felt good being able to take a punch. I think it felt good being punched. Looking back on it, life was great.

Aug. 4, 2001

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Lanny Beckman

Lanny Beckman lives in Vancouver and is the former publisher of New Star Books.

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