Being a good Southern girl was all about what you did and didn’t do. You did fry catfish in bacon grease kept under the sink for God knows how long. You didn’t wear white shoes after Labor Day. You did say “bless her heart” when you really meant “good riddance”. You didn’t kiss a boy first. You did wait.
Oh you waited. You waited at the end of the line while all the men and kids ate first. You waited for long hot summers to end. You waited for life to start in a tiny town that time had appeared to have forgotten. You waited to be kissed. You waited to get married. You waited to have children. Then you waited to greet death.
It was the hottest, driest summer on record, but that morning there were clouds. Not ominous, but promising. I could feel their promise from the heels of my bare feet, traveling up to the pounding of my waiting heart. I pushed the wild feeling of yearning down, yearning to run, to scream and cry, to rush headlong into life. I put on my dress and shoes and went to meet Mama at the diner for lunch.
We were sitting in the window booth at the diner when the thunder rumbled. The ice rattled in the tea glasses. It was like the thunder started a wave in me, a powerful churning wave. I looked at the tea with its long spoon and tiny lemon wedge, heard Mama talking about the ladies at prayer meeting, smelled the frying grease that permeated the air and was hit by the ridiculousness of the small life I led.
That’s when I saw him out of the window. I got up in the middle of Mama’s sentence, left her sitting there with her mouth open in shock. By the time I made it across the diner and opened the door, huge drops of rain were falling. They were the sort that drenched you to the skin in only three drops. He saw me from where he was, in the middle of the street. He shrugged off his jacket in one smooth motion and draped it around my shoulders saying, “Here, you’ll chill.” Whatever declaration of ardor I intended to make left my mind completely as I looked up into his endless blue eyes. Instead, I grabbed him by the striped button down shirt and kissed him. Kissed him like I wanted to be kissed. Like I had waited to be kissed.
I was done waiting.