Robin Williams will always have a special place in my heart, not because I knew him personally, but because when I was 15 years old, he helped me summon the courage to kiss a girl for the first time.
Her name was Melanie and she was a cheerleader at our high school. Somehow I had convinced her to come over to my parent’s house to watch a movie in my room. My parents’ house is two-story and back then they had recently finished off the basement with a bedroom, two small offices and a play area. I, being the oldest child, was blessed to have the room while the rest of the family lived upstairs. There was no bathroom downstairs and no food sources down there, so I still had to make frequent appearances upstairs but when it came to privacy I basically had an entire basement to myself. There was one rule with girls and that was that the door to my room was never to be closed if a girl was over. I was a good kid with no sexual experience and this rule never made much sense to me at the time, but as I said I was a good kid so I followed the rules. Melanie arrived to watch a movie.
My room was a basic teenager’s room with a desk and a bed and an entertainment stand with a Nintendo 64, a TV, and a stereo, but not much else. There was one chair in the room and that was my desk chair. The chair was an amazing brown leather high back chair that when you pushed with all of your strength would recline enough to almost be flat. Not quite the comfort and simplicity of the handle on a lazy-boy but a great chair nonetheless. I would learn later that night that there was just enough room to squeeze two people into the chair, but I am getting ahead of myself.
I would enjoy spinning a yarn about my southern gentlemanly charm being the reason that I offered Melanie the chair to sit in while I sat on the floor, but the truth is probably closer to the fact that there simply wasn’t anywhere else to sit. I guess I must have known offering to sit next to her on the bed was not likely to be received well. Not that I knew what to have done in that situation anyway, but I digress. I also don’t remember how we picked the film, but Disney’s Aladdin was the selection for the evening.
Since I was little, I’ve been a huge movie buff and was introduced early on that watching a movie meant the lights were off, popcorn, Coca-Cola and candy in hand and there was no talking or distractions once the movie started in. So I gathered the popcorn and snacks, the drinks, and then asked if Melanie was ready to start watching and I turned off the lights and started the movie. But the lights from outside of my room were glaring the TV and well that just wouldn’t do. Without a second thought I closed the door. It wasn’t too long into the movie that I found myself in the chair with Melanie. A brief awkward struggle to find a comfortable position eventually led to her sitting in my lap. First contact. With almost no experience with girls up to this point, I came to understand that at some point I might actually get to kiss the girl sitting on my lap, but how was that going to work? I’d have to interrupt the movie! And what if she didn’t want to be kissed? It was too much for my 15-year-old brain to comprehend and so I focused on laughing at Al the Genie and the movie before us. Melanie began to fidget during some of the scenes where Jasmine is clearly trying to help Aladdin figure out much of the same issues I was struggling with that night, and I remember at one point Melanie turning away from the screen back to meet my gaze. She smiled and let her gaze linger. Still, I didn’t take the bait and she turned back to the movie and continued to fidget as only a woman can when she isn’t getting her way. The Genie and Abu continued to work with Aladdin on his quest to woo Jasmine and some part of me must have been paying attention because the longer Melanie was pressed against me, the more I wanted to find out what all this kissing stuff was about. We watched the movie and laughed as the Genie coaxed Aladdin into finally asking Jasmine out and their awkward first encounter that lead to the magic carpet ride and all the romance that followed. Yet none of this was enough to convince me to make my move. 90 minutes later, as the credits roll, panic sets in for me and I realize any moment she’s going to get up and leave my lap and I’m going to have lost my opportunity. Remembering one of the pep talks from the Genie, I panicked and in a now-or-never move I pulled her closer to me and I kissed her. I pulled a bit too hard and we kind of slammed into each other’s lips too hard so that first kiss kind of hurt. We giggled at the mistake and tried a second time, being gentler. With the song A Whole New World playing in the background, we continued to kiss… until my father flung open the door to the room.
I love my father, and in this moment I think you might as well. Remember that the house rule was that if a girl was over, the door was open. Normally if I was in my room I kept the door open anyway. Well my father came home from work and after pulling the car into the garage; he passes through the playroom downstairs, and glances down the hallway to my room and notices the door is closed, but there’s no light on. He had no idea I was home, or that at this very moment Melanie and I were exploring each other’s lips, so he walks to the door and flings it open. The sound of the door being flung open causes me to swivel the chair around so I’m not facing him, but I’m still lip locked with Melanie. Like a deer caught in the headlights, my father’s eyes meet mine, and in that split second Melanie realizes something’s wrong and opens her eyes and sees my dad standing there. She jumps in fear and lets out a small scream of panic. My dad realizes what he’s just walked in on and without missing a beat, he apologizes, bows out of the room, shuts the door behind him and a few moments later I hear him going back up the stairs. Melanie and I are shell-shocked from just being busted, and just look at each other for a few moments before we start giggling about the whole thing. By now the end credits of the movie have stopped and it’s time for her to go home.
I’ve forgotten how Melanie got home that night or where our young relationship went after that day, but years later we ended up at the same college. She was studying architecture at Southern Polytechnic while I was a Computer Science major. We exchanged a few laughs, and bumped into each other a few times around campus but we had both long moved on from that Whole New World so many years prior.
When I heard Robin Williams had taken his life, this memory was the first thing that came to mind and I rushed to Amazon.com to buy the Aladdin Blu-Ray which arrived in the mail earlier today. I look forward to rediscovering how a Genie helped a boy with his first kiss.