1. The first and only time I ever painted my chest was for a Volleyball game, the state game at the White Knoll high school gymnasium. The year before, our team won the championship, and this year, we would fall barely short. During halftime, we stood in the bitter wind smearing white paint onto our stomachs and chest.
The way the paint mixed with my hair, I could only think of how terrible it would be to wipe off. Then we wrote letters on us; I’m not sure, but I believe I was the exclamation point.
We still lost, but I don’t foresee any game I will ever feel strongly enough about again to spend three hours scraping paint from my wind-scarred nipples.
2. Because the first time I ever kissed a girl, it was a dare at a Valentine’s Dance. I’m not sure that’s how first kisses should happen.
3. Because the first time I tried to ride down the huge hill in our neighborhood without once applying the breaks, I veered into the grass and crashed into a tree.
I had been selling Joe Corbi’s Pizza door-to-door for a school fundraiser in the second grade. I was bored. Perched at the top of the hill, I allowed myself to roll down, picking up momentum until I could no longer control the bike, careening toward a short tree. The trunk halted the bike, but not me; I flipped over the handlebars, busting my head open on someone’s driveway. It was very cool that my forehead squirted blood like a water pistol until I nearly passed out.
Not two days ago, biking down Calhoun to visit the library, I experienced this unique event again. A car braked suddenly. My bicycle’s brakes work only when you pedal backwards, and to do so quickly requires me to stand up. I did this to avoid ramming the car’s bumper, but the sudden stop forced me to again tumble over the handlebars, which this time turned downwards, my body flailing, smashing against the road.
Fortunately, the vehicle behind me did not crush my head and allowed me to push my pathetic bike out of the rode. Once I made sure my head had not again become a gory fountain, I rode all the way to the library, scraped, bruised, bleeding. The only real causality was the button of my favorite red shorts, which had popped off quite violently upon force of impact.
4. Because the first time I ever tried to write a novel, my fifth grade teacher read it to my class, even the parts that seemed a little gory. Even the entire chapter about the main characters being taken in by this couple that resembled Mr. and Mrs. Claus– they are executed at the end of the chapter, tied to a wooden stake and burned alive.
Despite all of the strangely disturbing events in the book I wrote (it was only about 50,000 words long), she read it. Other kids seemed to like it. It was the first time I felt like people might one day read books I could write.
5. Because the first time I read the short story “Guts” by Chuck Palahniuk, I was riding a train. An hour-long ride to Stuttgart from Heilbronn, just the right amount of time needed to read short stories. I nearly passed out or threw up or a combination of the two. Instead, I sweated and worried about the words.
This was maybe the first time a book affected me in a physical sense as much as it did in a mental, philosophical sense.
6. The first time I ever went to a concert, the ticket cost me only $17. I arrived five hours early in Asheville and stood for three hours in front of the venue to watch The Tallest Man on Earth. But I got to stand on the front row, basically feeling his spit rain down on me as he sang.
Some people have never stood at the front row of a concert before.
7. When I opened my eyes for the first time today, I thought about the beauty of doing things for the first time. Listening to new songs. Listening to your stupid friends and trying stupid things with them. Reading recently published books. Going to places you’ve never been before, just to try their offerings of the grilled cheese sandwich.
There is a sprawling, grand adventure awaiting us all, and each day, we embark upon it anew.