Kisses Have Pictures Beat

I was on my way home, riding in the back of a cab and staring out the window at the downtown lights in the darkness of night. I don’t know why, but my mind found itself thinking about the last woman I truly opened myself up to, the one that, two years ago, destroyed any notion of trust I had and brought me to my lowest point during one of the most tragic periods of my life.

I don’t know why I thought about her. She broke a promise to be there when my grandfather passed away. She didn’t so much as send me a text when I was dying in the hospital, nor after. We tried to be civil for a while. I reached a point where I decided, after six years of friendship and love, I couldn’t – rather, shouldn’t – have her in my life anymore. When I cut my ties without a word, silence was my response. Well and truly done, then.

You know what I think it was? A couple weeks ago, I saw her at the bar. She was with friends and she was drunk. We walked past each other and someone jostled me on my right just as she put her left foot forward. Our elbows bumped into each other. I flinched. She didn’t. She kept going forward, never noticing me. I kept going forward, quietly relieved.

In the back of the cab, I went from thinking about the shitty parts to the last time it was good. Before she lied, before she left. We had rented a hotel room just for something different
We had sex. It was good, but it was always good with us. Afterwards, we turned the television on but kept the volume low. We lay there, curled around each other, talking for hours about everything and nothing.

She got up before I did the next morning, ready for work. I blinked awake and called her over. I sat on the edge of the bed, arms around her waist, and we kissed. Passionately. Desperately.

I knew it was the last kiss between us that would ever mean anything. It was a farewell and I felt my heart breaking as the door closed, though it wouldn’t be complete for a few months further.

People like to talk about their first kiss. Their first kiss ever, as if more often than not it wasn’t a bumbling, awkward thing. But that very first kiss isn’t the only special one. It isn’t the only one with a story. Often times, it’s hardly even the best story.

I have kissed a lot of women, and I’ve kissed many more times. I haven’t always remembered them. It hasn’t always been women I liked. There have been instances when alcohol or grief or anger has driven me into the arms of a woman who would receive me.

One time I spent an entire evening trying to hit on a girl and when it didn’t go anywhere, I kissed her friend – who I had known for years and worked with – at last call. And while I was attracted to the second woman as well, that was still a really shitty thing to do.

First kisses are weird. They can be bad. They can be great. They can be awkward.

Not too long ago, I finally got to take a woman out on a date that I had fancied for quite a while. We spent eight hours together. Dinner, movies, drinks, karaoke, back to my place to relax. We kissed for the first time and despite how many hundreds of times I’ve kissed someone before, this time I had no idea what to do with my hands. The kissing itself was fine, enjoyable and Lord, she was beautiful, and maybe it was because I liked her so much and I psyched myself up, but as she pulled away from my house, all I could think was that I had fucked it up.

We’re just friends, still, if you were wondering.

The first kiss is something special. Not just the first kiss ever, but the first kiss with each person. The first time you and someone else decide maybe there’s enough chemistry to lock lips. It’s different with everyone.

I had a first kiss with a woman in Texas while Katrina raged around us and Black Sabbath played on stage and that’s the most metal fucking thing that’s ever happened to me. She and I still disagree about a lot of things (mainly my attitude), but I still hold so much fondness for her as a woman, an artist, a musician, and an animal enthusiast.

I had a first kiss with a woman in a Bed, Bath and Beyond. Who the fuck knows why? We weren’t dating long. I liked her a lot, but our relationship was full of whimsy and randomness and so we were surrounded by towels and mattresses and we kissed and it wasn’t spectacular. No fireworks went off. No parade marched through. But it was cute, and it was our kiss, and we’re still close. We had Easter dinner together this year.

My first “girlfriend” was when I was in 4th grade. She was two years older, a black girl, and while I didn’t and still don’t give a shit about interracial relationships, there were some boys in her grade that felt a white guy shouldn’t be hanging around and I got my ass kicked a handful of times for it. Which didn’t stop me for a second because I have more balls than brains sometimes.

We played Spin the Bottle, she and I, and some other kids in the neighborhood. We kissed. That was nice. But then she wanted to “French” and I chickened out. I did. I didn’t want to be bad. Now we’re introducing tongues?! What is that madness?

…I don’t…wait a second.

I have no fucking idea who the first girl I kissed with tongue was.

I do, however, remember being in Germany. After a night of drinking through Oktoberfest, I wound up drinking at a party hostel and dancing on a table with an American girl from the Midwest. We laughed off demands to get off the furniture, we drank our ass off, we stayed up til sunrise. I never actually went to sleep that night, so we ran into each other again as she checked out of the hostel to move on, on to her next destination. I remember she kissed me. I had one hand on her hip and she had her hands on my shoulders. It was a sweet moment, and we both smiled as we separated and she moved out the door.

First kisses and last kisses can be the same, sometimes, and they can be worthwhile.

I have kissed sober and drunk, clean and sloppy. I have kissed with passion and pecked with disinterest, and kissed with a hunger, a need for a connection. Sometimes I got it. Sometimes I didn’t.

I did a theater show once and afterwards, after I had signed some kid’s copies of the program and said hello to my friends and family, a girl cornered me and shoved me against the wall and plunged her tongue down my throat. She said seeing me on stage was just, MMM, yeah.

Which is ridiculous,because I’ve seen recordings of my shows and I’m a terrible actor.

I was in a show with another woman,one I had a small, nothing-serious crush on, and instinctively, we kissed gently before the show started. We both smiled, she said, “We just kissed”, we both laughed and then nothing ever happened again.

First and final kisses can be the same and be completely pointless.

Final kisses…

The last kiss on the lips of someone you care about can be a haunt.

That fucking hotel room.

The doorway of a three-story mansion, my birthday, good food, good sex, good movies but my ex is distant and I ask if she wants to break up and she insists she doesn’t, and we kiss so goddamn tightly and I find out two days later that she got drunk and confessed to a mutual friend that she did, in fact, want to end things.

That wasn’t the last time we kissed, but it was the last time it meant anything.

That kiss with the Canadian girl in the back of a cab in Barcelona where I’m pulling back and desperately cranking the window open because I’m convinced one or both of us is going to vomit at any moment.

Kisses, man. A picture may say a thousand words, but a kiss will tell stories, and it will pull inside parts of you that you didn’t know you had, emotions positive and negative that have no goddamn names.

Physical intimacy is a beautiful thing. Being close with someone, being accepted by someone and having a mutual need or desire for each other is enticing. That moment where two people feel each other out – does it work, does it not – and you get that heat and that taste, and their hair is in your face or your hands and their clothes are twisted in your fingers and people are watching, or maybe they’re not, maybe there are candles, maybe it’s Bed, fucking Bath and Beyond, and there’s just a moment. A moment where nothing else matters. Whether the kiss is good or bad, there’s that one moment.

I look back on my past with lucidity, and I view the good with the bad with the embarrassing. I’ve had kisses that are forgettable. I’ve had kisses that I miss. Ones that are checkered and that shouldn’t have happened and ones that should have happened much sooner than they did.

Hell, there are kisses that never happened that haunt me for the sake of never being known for sure.

And there will be kisses to come, I’m sure. Good and bad, both with stories. Hopefully, too, one of those will be the start again of something truly special. Something that makes the rest of it just a footnote.

The Anatomy Of a Kiss

A strange thing, the anatomy of a kiss
Drawn out into a million seconds
Vivisected with the respect it deserved
I observed the curvature of her words
Through two lips as delicate as tulips
Flushed with blood and a flood of
Electricity that tingles the touch
Through the skeleton holding up loose limbs
The heart pumps, thumps and
Despite this, the mind is stumped
High temperature with sighs and
Eyes close, rose rises and like
Fine wine grows sweeter as
Time slows and grows deeper
Words wither as tongues grapple
Becoming sign language with…
Is that a hint of apple?

The anatomy of a kiss is a body of work
A volume of life
Sometimes a twist of the knife as the kiss cuts back
A duet or a bid adieu
It’s a strange thing, always anew
A fine science with limitless truths
The anatomy of a kiss

With a Kiss In the Wind

Every once in a while, I’ll find myself not just attracted to a woman but inspired by them. I pay special attention when that happens because that’s the kind of thing that helps pick my spirits up and encourages my mind to get working.

To that end, I’ve decided to continue the flash fiction I began with Goodbye, Horses. Hopefully y’all will like this as much as you did the first part:

The sun was warm against her side. The grass was soft under her hands, the emerald tips tickling the contours of her palms. Two gulls circled lazily overhead, their wings glinting in the rays of the summer day.

Marisol and Tom rested across from each other. She was sitting cross-legged while he lay on his back, arms folded behind his head and face turned sideways. He was watching a pair of children kick a pale pink ball around fervorishly.

When she first spotted him in the bookstore, she had seen a sadness in him. It hadn’t been overwhelming. She wasn’t worried about him breaking down in tears in public or shredding some classic piece of literature that no doubt reminded him of some heartless ex. The signs were smaller. A slight hunch in his shoulders. The way he shuffled his feet from aisle to aisle instead of picking them up. The lines that curled around his eyes and pulled in towards his mouth.

She could relate, she thought. A feeling of complacency had taken over her life and what had started as a sense of contentment was quickly transforming into a profound restlessness and wanderlust. At work, the pointless chatter of her co-workers was starting to gnaw at her. She didn’t care about who drank how much or what somebody’s bar tab was. So what if this person was cheating on that person and vice-versa and no, she didn’t think couple’s therapy would work.

She wanted stories of adventure and culture and coincidences so profound they might as well be classified as miracles. She wanted to see pictures of exotic places and hear about fleeting love and near-death experiences and moments where someone finally found out what living was.

But she wasn’t getting that. She was getting drivel.

She had left work early and retreated somewhere she could be alone with her own fantasies and longings for spur-of-the-moment action. That’s how she had wound up at the bookstore. She didn’t even know what she was looking for, but it was quiet there without being as stifling and formal as, say, the library.

That’s where she had found Tom, with his weary expression and shoes that left smoothed streaks in the carpet with every “step” that he took. He looked like she felt: a frayed knot that could probably benefit from just being unwound a bit.

She took a chance. She didn’t know why, but each foot she got closer to him was charged with more energy than the last. He hadn’t noticed when she finally reached him; he was too busy scowling at  the large book he’d been flipping through for several minutes. She opened her mouth to speak, choked on the first word, tried again and asked, “What are you reading?” in a voice much more confident than she felt.

She had surprised him with the question, with her presence, but if he felt put upon he didn’t show it. Instead, she saw a gentleness in his eyes. A kindness and a little bit of caution. Tom wasn’t used to being approached by strange woman and that was fine, because Marisol wasn’t used to being the strange woman getting up in men’s business.

But he responded and they talked. It wasn’t quite about nothing, their conversation, but it was close. It also came easier and felt more… relaxed than any conversation she could remember having in recent times. They both laughed. He rolled his eyes at her corny jokes and references, but she could see the smile behind it all. When he asked her to join him out, she accepted, though she didn’t know why.

That’s not true, she thought. I do know. I needed to get away. I needed to have a real conversation that wasn’t mired in drama and pointlessness. I wanted to be around someone who was as fed up with the day-to-day as I am.

She looked at Tom, laying there, watching youth dart across the park, slapping a toy that probably cost half a dollar to make and thirty-five to buy. The lines in his face had smoothed out. It was hard to tell for sure because he was flat on his back, but she could swear the slump in his shoulders had straightened out a bit as well.

Marisol wondered if she showed physicals signs of discontent as well. If so, she wondered if he had noticed them.

He wasn’t conventionally attractive in the sense that the girls at work wouldn’t gawk at him with Ohmigaw’s and I-could-just-DIE’s, but he was handsome. His hair looked like he had just rolled out of bed but it worked on him, somehow. There was an attentiveness to him; even as she watched him, she could see how he took in every little detail of the day and the people enjoying it. He made her smile with his words and, considering the idiots she spent most of her time around, that may have been the best quality of them all.

“What are you thinking about?” she asked.

“Mm,” Tom murmured.

He turned his head to look at her and the position, unflattering for anyone, gave him a small double-chin. She snickered and covered her mouth, trying to mask it as a cough.

“What?” he asked.


“You laughed.”

“What? No, I didn’t.”

“You did. What’s so funny?”

“I didn’t, I coughed. Must have been…uh, pollen.”

“Pollen,” Tom said.

“Yeah. Or something. Tickled my throat. What were you thinking about?”

Tom smiled, which made the chin worse. Marisol barely restrained herself.

“I was just looking at those kids, thinking about when I was younger. I picked this park because my friends I would always come down here, stir up some trouble. We would go down the bike trail and play in the creek, see if we couldn’t find something cool that somebody tossed in or left behind.”

“And did you?”

“Found a tacklebox once. A few bicycle skeletons. My buddy Derek found an engagement ring once. Couldn’t find the owner, so we pawned it and bought a pizza. Looking back on it, I think we probably got ripped off.”

Marisol smiled and looked out towards the gap in the trees where the bike trail wound through. The sun was still sitting high and even the faint breeze rustling the leaves and tousling their hair was warm.

“Let’s go play in the creek,” she said suddenly.

“You want to what now?”

“The creek. Come on. It’ll be fun.”

Tom sat up. “I didn’t bring an extra set of clothes. Or even a towel. Kids play in creeks. I-”

“Got boring as you got older?” Marisol asked with a grin that flashed her teeth.

She saw a light flare in his eyes. He shook his head slowly. “I’ll only get in that creek on one condition.”

“I beat you in rock, scissors, paper?”

“That would never happen. You have to race me there.”

“Deal,” Marisol replied immediately.

” I’m warning you, I took track in high-”

Marisol leapt to her feet and sprinted towards the bike path. She could hear Tom curse – softly, as if he was hoping she wouldn’t hear – and her grin broadened. Her legs pumped and she bolted between the two kids, leaping over their rolling ball.

Lilac trees lined the park, a brilliant frame to the picturesque park. As she raced along, hair blown backwards, she could catch a scent of the amethyst flowers and she hoped Tom would smell it, too. It wound through the field like a kiss in the wind.

–This didn’t have as much dialogue or humor as the first piece, I don’t think, but I enjoyed writing it all the same. Hope you all liked it, because I’m definitely thinking of writing a third and final part soon.

Update: Here is the third and final part: Something In the Water