My Life in Kisses
Pucker up, July 6th is National Kissing Day!
To me, kisses are like Diet Coke; they’re both addicting, but they taste dull after too many. They both have their flavors and occasions, because sometimes you need a Coke Zero like you need a French kiss. The only difference is Diet Coke is readily available but costs an absurd $1.75 from vending machines. Kissing is selective but free of charge unless you count the emotional baggage it risks.
Kisses ultimately taste better. They return the touch, except Diet Coke is there for me when kisses are not.
So yes, I remember and cherish all my kisses. The hello and goodbye ones for Mom and Dad, the cheeky ones for my sisters (when they let me), and even the ones for those whose faces I attempt to dismiss or honestly cannot recall because my eyes were closed.
I have kissed friends on the cheek and a few babies on the lips. I’ve kissed boys first and grandparents last. And I’ve also gotten bored. I’ve kissed too long or too quick, with tongue and teeth, on lips and elsewhere.
I’ve been blessed to know a life of kisses good, great, and bland. And those are just the ones I’ve given to humans. I’m not even going to start counting all the times I’ve puckered up for an Edward Cullen poster.
June 2017, Age 22
Tag this one under, “confusing millennial dating culture.” One of my more intimate guy friends (yes, one of those friends), Jack, had just graduated, and I wanted to bid him a final see-ya before he moved back North. He and I had been casually seeing each other since March. I arrived at his door with chapstick applied and mints in my mouth. I figured some long, hot and humid smooches were the best way for me to show him how much his superficial yet satisfying presence meant to me. He answered with a stoned expression, but I let myself believe he knew that this was it. His room was hot, and I only noticed when he started sweating after a few minutes. I left trying not to cry but also satisfied with the run of whatever we had.
October 2016, Age 22
This one means more than any kiss I’ve shared with a boy. A hurricane came for Savannah, Georgia, which meant school was canceled and all of a sudden I had an impromptu fall break. I went home and spent time with my YiaYia and Papou, Dad’s parents. My YiaYia showed me how to make phosphoro, a special Greek bread served during and after Greek Orthodox Church masses. When I kissed YiaYia goodbye, she shook a little, and I had a lite yet foreboding sentiment this would be my last memory of her. I was right.
June 2016, Age 21
Back to not-so-serious. While out in Broad Ripple in Indianapolis for my best friend’s 21st birthday, I was fired up from a few Long Islands, among other concoctions, and I ended my 13-month-long dry spell with a stranger in a club called Land Sharks. He gave my friend a fake rainbow-colored rose while we were dancing like carefree, uncoordinated marionettes. I was not desperate, but I was at that certain stage in my intoxication where I thought kissing was a good idea, and he looked ideal from a distance. What followed was okay, nothing worth a superlative, because I discovered my disorientation failed my judgement in terms of his appearance.
May 2015, Age 20
Here was another friend, a co-worker actually, who was a few years older than me, with whom I became close. He drove me to work one day, and after he parked, we made out until we had to clock in. Two weeks later we parted ways, but I did not know how to leave things between us. We were once again in his car and I reached to shake his hand (I don’t know what I was thinking either). He grabbed it and said, “Come here,” and he pulled me in for a final adieu against his bristly mustache. Less than 24 hours later, he started seeing someone else. That’s when I learned I had been, unknowingly, his side-chick.
September 2013, Age 18
I was a month away from turning 19, and I hadn’t kissed a boy since I was eight. The lights were dim and the dorm room smelled of wet wheat. I was with my girlfriends when I met a blonde, broad and blue-eyed boy who I thought was light-years out of my league. We awkwardly grinded. He took me to his room where we had a nice PG makeout session, the first I had ever experienced. To this day, whenever I see or smell Nattie Lite, I flashback to wobbly coffee tables and sweaty, easily excited freshmen.
December 2006, Age 12
I thought my Nonnie, Mom’s mom, was getting better. She looked so happy and healthy sitting up on her hospital bed. Everyone was smiling, me, my sisters, Mom, and Grampsie. So when I kissed Nonnie before Mom took us home, I did not fathom that a few weeks later no one would be smiling.
Spring 2003, Age 8
My friend Nicole and I were kicking a soccer ball around the front lawn. My next-door-neighbor Austin came over and asked to join us. Nicole and I obliged, and for the next few hours we played a scrimmage match (which I lost) and held a contest to see who could climb the monkey bars the fastest on the backyard swingset. Also on the swingset was a large tire swing, and we took a ring-pop break on that swing during which Nicole, Austin and I all agreed to kiss each other for laughs. My ring-pop was cherry and Austin said after our kiss that my lips tasted like medicine. I specifically recall puckering my lips and tasting the stains of his blueberry sucker.
May 1998, Age 3 ½
Mom invited my now-middle sister Annie and me into her hospital room to meet our new sister Sarah. She looked like a delicate, fleshy potato. Annie did not know what to think of the strange, tiny human. She would not even touch Sarah, let alone give her a peck on the forehead. Mom asked her, “You wanna give your baby sister a kiss?” Annie just stared at Sarah with her hand retracted in uncertainty. I, on the other hand, was thrilled to have another dress-up playmate, and I greeted the potato with a gentle kiss on her bald, duck-fuzz head.