1928 - Alderson High School - 1968

 

 

Saturday Matinee Kissing Practicum
(David B. Shields)

Once upon a time there was a young towheaded boy with freckles who lived in Alderson, West Virginia, a listless, time-warped hamlet in two counties in the southeastern part of the state.  In fact, the river that ran through Alderson was the county line.  But even though half the town sat in Monroe County every one has always thought of Alderson as being in Greenbrier County, probably because both the elementary and high school was on the Greenbrier side and provided the only common identity for the denizens through most of the 20th Century.   

A concrete bridge traversed the river and connected the two halves of the town, the Greenbrier end of which has always served as a kind of classroom of life.  Not only did every native son of Alderson learn about the birds and bees and every other nuance of life at the end of that bridge, it was where a good many life-altering decisions were made. 

It was here that the towhead, whose name was David, decided to resume cursing.  It was a curious decision, but, in the end, one which taught him a good deal about people, including himself, and what it must have been like in the Garden of Eden when innocence was lost. 

You see when David was eleven or twelve or thirteen, the exact age canít be recalled but it was a good while before he got a drivers permit and shortly after he left the Baptist fold and joined up with the Methodist, he decided independently, without counsel or conference with anybody, to stop cursing.  Cold turkey!  Here today, gone tomorrow.  And he accomplished the deed without so much as one withdrawal symptom or slip of the tongue.  One day he was a curser and the next his tongue was as clean as the first snow of winter. 

But nobody noticed.  Not once did anybody comment on the profound change in his discourse.  Needless to say, this was a great disappointment to young David for if there is one thing that sustains a boy it is recognition or approval, especially from his peers.  But he got nothing for his sacrifice.  Nothing!  And had condemnation or ridicule not been equally absent, he may have taking up cursing again in short order.  But he didnít.  Remarkably he remained clean for a long time, in point of fact for a year or two when a profane utterance never spilled over his lips, not even in moments of raging anger or frustration.  And his only reward was the private pride he took in what he had accomplished, alone and unrecognized.  

As it happened during this cursing hiatus, the young David had made it a habit of attending the Saturday Matinees at the Alpine Theater on the Monroe side of the river, not so much to watch whatever feature was flicking on the silver screen but to practice kissing.  Two of his female classmates had somehow signed on as partners in this practicum.  In fact they had instigated the whole thing, much to Davidís delight mind you. 

The three of them would sit down near the front and scoot down in their seats, one girl on his right and the other on his left.  Shortly after the lights would dim and the film started, Davidís unsullied lips would seek out those of one girl and then the other, punctuated only by the whispered sounds of worldly pleasure and the lashing sound of LaRueís whip or the crack of Cassidyís pistol from the towering screen above them.

The addiction was swift and it wasnít long before the more adventurous girl pilfered a tube of her motherís lipstick and stashed it in a secret crevice in the concrete railings of the bridge.  On the way to the Alpine, she would retrieve it and bring it to the matinee where she and her friend would paint up, elevating the degree of their and Davidís kissing pleasure enormously.  David relished the lingering taste and the traces of lipstick all over his mouth he wore like a badge of honor.  The girls, however, regardless of the pleasure they themselves took in the ďmarkingsĒ, would always admonish him to wipe it off as they were parting company, and he did.  For awhile! 

But his pride soon got the best of him.  One Saturday after a particularly long matinee, David left the Alpine with more than a noticeable smear of lipstick on his lips and all around his mouth.  And he didnít wipe away the evidence as he had been instructed.  He was pumped up with pride as he approached a gathering of his friends at the Greenbrier end of the bridge.   

Naturally, everybody noticed the lipstick and he was suddenly surrounded by prodigious envy and the pressure mounted to come clean. Davidís resolve to keep the secret soon melted and he offered up enough hints for everybody to soon guess what he had been doing and with whom he had been doing it. 

Long story short, this public disclosure brought a swift and decisive end to the Saturday Matinee Kissing Practicum and eventually an unbearable burden of guilt to David.  In fact, he had not known such despair in his whole life, and after awhile the only solace he could find in his wretched existence was in the long abstinence from cursing he had built up in deference to his new membership in the Methodist Church.  But in time even that comfort diminished.  As the weight of his guilt continually grew, the more unworthy of such comfort he felt.  

So one day, while sitting quietly among his friends at the end of the bridge conversing about the usual stuff, he threw a few curse words into his discourse.  It was nothing loud or boisterous or different from the language all his friends were using or had used habitually.  But something very strange happened. 

The moment the first word of Davidís profanity hit the ears of his listeners, everybody fell silent and turned to look at him in disbelief.  The shock and disappointment on his friendsí faces were unmistakable.  Not one had noticed when he had stopped cursing, but they had all noticed when he resumed!  In point of fact, word spread rapidly through the town that David had started cursing, and his fall from a grace that he had not even known he had took on a haunting finality, and that pall has stayed with him all his life.