My sister Lindy never got in trouble so consequently never spent one minute in that room. I think she didn't learn to read until she was 28. I don't even know for a fact if she can read today because we only talk on the phone. Not my fault I was smarter than her.
I came to know every book in our library because I stopped sticking pins into my Dad's pictures long enough to read all the thick ones because I was sure they were the hardest. Then I would quote really big words at the dinner table. Just to punish him.
Eventually I got around to a thin book. Hardly visible among all the novels and biographies (Eleanor of Aquitaine! The Call of the Wild! Crime and Punishment!) was a pale blue hardcover called This is My Beloved by Walter Benton, first published in 1943. Inside I discovered lusty phrases like Your warm naked thighs and Your breasts are wonderfully alive under my kisses and the very disturbing Your lips cushioned the inherent murder in your teeth.
I was 15.
And had just kissed my first boy, Alain, in a town on the Atlantic coast of France called Meschers.
This is me and Alain, who was 17. Look how relaxed Alain was; look at me clutching my Kodak Brownie Camera as if he was going to steal it. You know the French. If he and I had gotten married we would have given birth not to a child but to one giant nose.
I came back from France that school year and read Walter Benton's incredibly gorgeous book of poetry. I thought I knew everything about love and the fine art of French kissing but as it turned out, apparently there was A LOT more to learn.
When I left Meschers, Alain gave me his little silver medallion from the most famous church in the world, Lourdes. Buying something from Lourdes often implies someone really needs it to keep them healthy. I hope I didn't kill him by accepting it.
But chances are good that I did.
So Happy Valentine's Day to all the boys and girls with "inherent murder in their teeth." It's a miracle I ever kissed anyone again after reading that line.
I still have that little silver medallion.