he was not the first to have asked for her hand in marriage, but he was the last.
they now have a beautiful baby boy.
there was a particular day at work when we were filling in the long and lazy afternoon with mostly useless chatter and she turned to me and said, if i had met the right guy, right off the bat, i would have missed the fun of all the others.
i was navigating a particular sort of heartache at the time and didn't give it too much thought. i mean, when you've met the guy that you think could be the guy, who cares about the fun of the others? especially when fun so quickly, so easily, gives way to loss. and even small losses cost something.
but then i got over that guy. it took way too long and was way too hard, but i got over him. and then i fell in love with someone else. and then i had to get over him. and something about this feels really unfair because i gotta tell you, once you've loved someone and they don't--or can't--love you back, i cannot see the value in ever having that experience again.
but that's life. and maybe there is a point. maybe the hapless mess and chaos and unknown is actually ordered by a divine grace that is simply unknown to us. or maybe it really is just mess and chaos and unknown. because i believe in those things.
(but i believe in grace too).
now i think of my dear friend's words when i kiss men for the first time.
because, thing is, i can remember every first kiss.
every first kiss, every in-between kiss, every should-we-really-be-doing-this kiss?
there was the kiss that took place just inside the front of my apartment building this past january. it wasn't terribly good and didn't last terribly long and i wasn't terribly keen on the guy. days later he had said that it wasn't his best attempt and i was baffled, guys think that way? i just figured people kiss in all sorts of ways and either you fit or you don't. never thought of kissing as a thing of practice and false starts and poor attempts.
there was that one kiss when i was nineteen, sitting with my back against a row of tall, dark lockers. i had made an art form of fantasizing about a particular boy in school for so long. i always imagined our first kiss would be a sort of delicious collision: a little bit messy and a little bit dangerous--all-together something really good. but that day as he emerged from a classroom--old sweats and socks--he stopped in front of me and leant down, pressed his lips against my forehead. it was simple. and soft. as gentle a thing as can be. and in the space between what i had so long wanted and what i actually got, was something all together better.
with the last man i dated we were standing inside of a liquor store at the end of our first date and knowing there would probably be more dates to follow, i had but one thought: this cannot happen here. our first kiss cannot be inside of this place from which we are buying a handle of whiskey (at my request). it didn't. it was just inside the door to his small west village studio apartment. he spent five minutes just below my left ear before he ever got to my mouth... (and that's all i'll say about that).
there have been so many kisses.
the i'll-do-this-once-and-check-it-off-my-bucketlist kiss.
the middle-of-the-day-is-this-really-about-to-happen? kiss.
the knee-deep-before-you've-even-begun kiss.
the we-can't-let-anyone-see-this kiss. the the-whole-of-my-face-will-be-raw-tomorrow-but-it's-so-worth-it kiss.
the i-don't-like-the-feel-of-your-tounge-in-my-mouth-so-get-out kiss.
the i've-just-met-you-and-walking-in-here-tonight-i-told-the-girl-at-the-front-desk-that-i-didn't-know-what-you-looked-like-and-now-here-we-are-sucking-face-(or some such)-and-i'm-a-little-bit-embarassed-but-not-enough-because-holy-shit-i-sort-of-like-you-and-it's-fun-to-feel-sixteen-again kiss.
the i-don't-know-your-name-but-i'll-figure-it-out-after kiss.
the five-am-post-karaoke kiss.
there were the kisses that never were. the kisses that hung in the air, silent what-ifs.
the last kisses that i didn't know--couldn't know--were such.
the this-is-just-a-kiss kiss. which is always so much more than just-a-kiss. always so much more than just-an-anything.
there were the kisses that took a little while to figure out. the kisses i laughed through and groaned during and pulled away from, before. trying. again. there have been unexpected kisses, and climbing-from-bed-in-the-morning kisses--those that mostly land on the bony and angular parts of the body. there have been the come-back-to-bed kisses. the middle-of -the-night-are-you-still-there kisses.
there was that one second-first-kiss that was eight years in the making.
there have been gateway kisses and goodbye kisses. kisses that feel like breathing, like water: easy and sweet. of-course kisses and kisses laced with white wine and courage. and then there's the first kiss that feels like you're falling into the person--like you've kissed them a thousand times before and it's second nature and you think maybe, just maybe it's true. maybe the future does indeed have an ancient heart.**
and there are still more kisses to look forward to. more fun. more chaos. more mess. more that will make very little sense. until it does. until sense sweeps in. and the last first kiss is had. the this-is-home kiss.
nothing more and nothing less than that.
which is pretty much everything.
**the future has an ancient heart--words by Carlo Levi, as explained perfectly by Cheryl Strayed
also, for what it's worth, no one has ever talked about kissing/kisses better than Jeffrey McDaniel when he wrote the poem The Archipelago of Kisses (which inspired much of this post--art is about borrowing and stealing from your betters, no?) and ended it with these perfect words:
"But one kiss levitates above all the others. The intersection of function and desire. The I do kiss./ The I'll love you through a brick wall kiss. Even when I'm dead, I'll swim through the earth/ like a mermaid of the soil, just to be next t your bones."
photo by the ridiculously talented Emma Hartvig (who i'm honored to call a friend)