So I have to come down to my grandparents' farm for this stupid family reunion which kinda sucks 'cause Tom got a new D&D campaign, dungeons D1, 2 and 3 which are supposed to kick ass and be really hard and we were going to play 'em this weekend, but since when has my life been fair, right? So we all drive downstate and my brother's got his Walkman on and he listens to all this heavy metal shit and he's got it on really loud and the whole back seat goes "bzzz-bzzz-bzzz-bzzz" whenever there's a guitar solo and I go, "Will you turn it down!" and he goes, "What! I got my Walkman on!" so I go, "Mom!" and Mom goes (of course), "Well, he's got his earphones on, and that's the best we can do," and bzz-bzz-bzz it's driving me crazy!

And we finally get down there and it's all the usual nutcases, but Uncle Mike and Aunt Julie are down from Chicago this year, which doesn't happen very often, so that's kinda cool, and Mom goes, "Matt, you remember your cousin Rachel, don't you?" and uh, duh, yeah I remember Rachel. Rachel's cut her hair short and she's wearing a ratty t-shirt that says, 'God -- Go For It! NICC Summer Conference 1983' and she's hanging out on the couch and I don't know what to say so I go, "Hey, how's it going?" and she goes, "Okay. How're you?" and I go, "I'm all right," and there you go. I'm so smooth, yeah, right. Then all the parents leave the room and Rachel and I are in there alone and it kinda freaks me out so I sit down across the room and get out my Rubik Supercube and start playing with it.

"Hey," Rachel says, "Is that that Supercube?"

"Yeah," I say, and Rachel goes, "Cool," and comes over. "I've got the regular cube," she says, "but I've never tried the Supercube."

"Yeah, I figured out the cube like, last year," I say. "I just got this for my birthday. It's got four rows on a side instead of three. It's pretty tough."

She goes, "Can I try it?" so I go "sure" so she starts playing with it and she's pretty good, she gets an entire side done. And then we start talking and pretty soon we're laughing and talking and it turns out we listen to a lot of the same bands except she said the best show she's seen yet was this summer she saw Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith play back-to-back and I'm like, hmm, but I don't say anything. Man, she's really into her church but I guess that's just how she is, you know?

So Rachel and I hang out with each other all day and that was cool, and then that night they have The Celebrated Family Reunion HayRide, whoo-hoo, you know, but I guess I shouldn't really say anything because I do end up having a pretty good time. Grandpa hooks up his tractor to like three full wagons full of hay and goes up through this path of his farmland and it's, like, the middle of the night and it's pitch-black and spooky and Uncle Steve keeps running around the side of the wagon and jumping up and yelling "Boo!" and doesn't he realize how annoying he is? But now he's got the kids started and now they keep jumping off the wagon and running around and throwing hay on everyone and stuffing it down people's shirts and rubbing it in their hair and all the moms are yelling, "Get back on the wagon! You're going to get left behind!" but it's pitch-black, so what do they know? And Rachel and I are sitting together and we're just laughing at everyone and how stupid they're acting but then we get into it and we're throwing hay on each other and we start laughing even more which makes us get hay in our mouths and we have to spit which makes me laugh so hard I think my side's going to split. And at some point when we're throwing hay on each other our hands touch and we slip them into each other and we sit there the whole rest of the hayride holding hands, down real low between us so no one else can see it and I keep digging and rubbing my thumb across the back of her hand and she keeps doing the same to me and we don't say anything about it but every so often we look at each other and it's like we're both saying the same thing to each other without actually saying it, you know?

And we get to the campfire at the top of this hill where you can see all the way down at all of Grandpa's farmland and his house way far away and all the Ozarks stretch out before you, and it's pretty cool, I gotta admit. So I grab a styrofoam cup full of warm soda and go down a little bit down the hill and just be by myself and think about my life and high school and the new Police album which I've been listening to like, constantly and I think it's kinda warping my mind but I think I kinda like that, you know?

And all the old-timers have gathered around the campfire at the top of the hill and they're all singing hymns and you know, whatever, and Rachel comes down the hill and stands next to me and says, "Hey" so I go "hey" and she goes "whatcha thinking about?" and I go, "I don't know. Life, I guess. High school," then I laugh 'cause it sounds really stupid, I mean, high school isn't life, you know, it just came out that way.

Rachel looks at the sky and says, "You can't see any stars in Wheaton. Chicago and all the other cities are too close by. Too many lights." She doesn't say anything for awhile and then she says, "I've never seen so many stars."

I point at the sky. "Orion. That means winter's coming." I point to the horizon. "That's where you'd see Venus, but we missed it. It sinks early this time of year. Another sign of winter." I point up. "Big dipper. Follow the line on the end of it--" and I do with my finger -- "and that's the North Star."

She says, "How come you know so much about astronomy?"

"Oh..." and now I'm embarrassed because I'm looking like a nerd again and I'm working really hard this year not to look like one, but I keep slipping up -- "Oh, I studied it. You know, when I was a kid."

"Oh," she says, looking into the sky again, and I want to grab her hand again but I'm feeling really nervous and self-conscious. Out of the blue she says, "You know, one day we're going to be grown-up and bringing our kids down here and we'll be the ones around the campfire and they're going to be running around and throwing hay."

"Yeah." I pause. "Weird."

"Yeah," she says.

Right then my brother runs up. "Hey, we're all gonna play hide-n-seek in the woods."

"Oh, man..." I groan.

"Oh come on! We need all the people we can get!"

"I'm fifteen!" I say. "I'm not gonna play hide-n-seek!"

"Come on, it'll be fun," Rachel says, then grabs my hand and yells, "Come on!" and pulls me with her and what can I say, I'm a sucker.

So we're all at the top of the hill and we're making all these elaborate rules, as usual ("Okay, you can't go past the big rock or no one will ever find you and this chair is base but you can't move the chair or you'll automatically be It") and then we eeny-meeny for It and my brother gets It, ha-ha, serves him right. So he hides his eyes and starts counting down from a hundred really fast, and Rachel grabs me and whispers, "Come hide with me," and we're running through the woods and there's branches and logs and shit everywhere and I can barely see where I'm going but Rachel's running through it all breakneck like nothing can hurt her or ever will and she finds two big trees next to each other and she grabs me and pulls me into the little hiding space that they form where the trunks meet.

I'm standing next to her and she whispers, "Closer, he'll see you," so I scoot in and like, our whole bodies are touching each other, all the way up and down. And we're both looking the same direction, back towards base so like, her back is to my front, that make sense? And my heart's going "BOOM-BOOM-BOOM" from all the running and I'm trying to catch my breath and calm down but I can't, you know, my breath is coming all shallow and my heart's still going "BOOM-BOOM-BOOM" and Jesus I got a hard-on like you wouldn't believe, like it's harder than it's ever been in my whole life, like it's going to rip through my pants, and my face is like an inch away from Rachel's head and all I can think about is how her short blonde hair is all wet and matted down from all the running and her neck is tan and naked, and I can smell her hair, I can actually smell her hair.

Rachel turns around quickly and she's got this look on her face, this look like, well, I don't know, just this weird look on her face, like she's frowning but not really, her mouth is open and her lips are drooped just a little bit kinda like a frown but not really, and her eyes are half-closed and there's little beads of sweat running down her face and before I even know what's going on we're kissing and all I can think, I swear to God all I can think is, "This isn't nearly as hard to do as I thought it was going to be," but I still don't really know what I'm doing, our lips are sort of just mashed together and then Rachel opens her mouth really wide so I do too and now our tongues are touching each other and now they're wrestling and everything in there is so hot and wet and weird I can feel myself getting weak in the knees.

Then my brother starts yelling, "Come out! Come on out! I got Nathan!" then I hear another voice, dejected, yelling, "Yeah, he got me! I'm It!" and we stop kissing and I look at Rachel and she looks at me, and we both got these looks of panic on our faces and then she grabs my hand and smiles and then pecks me on the lips again and runs off into the woods without saying a word.

And I just stand there for a minute, thinking, "So that was my first kiss" and I keep thinking I should memorize everything around me, all the details, for posterity's sake, so when I'm an old man and someone asks me about my first kiss I can tell them the whole story but, I mean, it's just some dark woods, it's just some trees, and it just sorta happened, you know, no big story, nothing cool. And that's that, I guess, so I start walking back to base 'cause I'm fifteen, man, and when you're fifteen you don't run back to base, you walk.