There are kisses, and then there are kisses. Regular, non-italicized kisses are lovely – they say anything from “hello, nice to meet you,” to “I want to fuck you against this wall.” Kisses though…kisses are different. Kisses get italicized when they’re the culmination of a moment. When they transcend the promise of sex and become whole and complete on their own – fragile, intimate moments that end as inevitably as they begin.
I was once stuck at the airport in Boulder, Colorado. There was a blizzard, (of course), and all flights were canceled for hours. As a result, I found myself at loose ends along with all the other optimistic souls who had scheduled flights through the Rockies in January.
It was late in the evening, so after lurking around uselessly, I went to the only thing still open – an over-dressed bar that didn’t seem to know it was in an airport in Colorado instead of midtown Manhattan. I ordered a gin and tonic and nursed it while I read something or other. I don’t remember what. What I do remember is that someone sat down next to me, ordered a beer and started reading the same book, except that his copy was tattered and falling apart.
We got to talking, as people in airports do, first about the book, which he read once a year, and then more personal things, like the fact that his girlfriend had just broken up with him.
I don’t generally ask strangers personal questions. I don’t like prying, and that night, especially, I didn’t feel like seriously engaging a person I’d never see again. And yet I still asked him why. Why had his girlfriend broken up with him? Something about the hunch of his shoulders coaxed the question out of me.
“She said I never kissed her like I meant it.”
He gave me a wry sort of self-deprecating smile, but it was hollow.
“What were you supposed to mean,” I asked. “That you loved her? Or that you wanted to be kissing her?”
“Both, I think,” he said.
“Did you,” I asked, meeting his eyes, and I realized that I couldn’t see what color they were in the bar’s relentlessly blue light. “Did you kiss her like you meant it?”
“Not enough,” he said. “Not as much as I should.”
I should have ended the conversation there. I didn’t want to be talking to a nice looking guy with a tattered copy of the book I’d gotten for Christmas. I wanted, quite honestly, to stay curled up in my shell. And yet, we had turned on our stools and our knees were nearly touching. My pulse felt heavy and promising in my throat. I was getting drawn in…pulled along by his sadness, which mirrored my own at the time.
Do you want to do this? Are we doing this? Yes, we’re going to do this….
We leaned into each other. His book was sitting on the bar, not quite next to mine. He still hadn’t touched me, but his hand was on the arm of my chair. We were negotiating the inevitable. Drifting, swaying…we kissed, lightly at first, still negotiating.
Are you sure this all right?
Then he cupped my cheek, and suddenly everything was all right. He kissed me because he wanted to. I could feel how much he wanted to in the touch of his tongue, and the jump of his pulse. And then it very gently ended. He smiled and kissed my forehead. I smiled and kissed his cheek. Then he picked up his book and left.
That kiss was an italicized kiss. It unfolded naturally, though it could have been scripted, and ended without a word. A kiss like that can be as intimate as sex, but you have mean it.
What do I mean by “mean it?” Not love. Not necessarily, though love never hurts. What I mean is that you have to want the kiss – not as a preamble to sex, but for its own sake. When I write erotica, it’s easy to forget that I’m not actually writing about sex. I’m writing about intimacy and affinity and connection, (or lack thereof), in the form of sex. It’s those three things that create the life and tension in the act that contains them, whether it’s kissing, fucking, spanking, or the softest touch, (think of that moment when Daniel Day-Lewis unbuttons Michelle Pfeiffer’s glove in The Age of Innocence. That, and the kiss that follows, is heartbreaking and hot).
If I had written that kiss in Boulder as a story I could easily have used the kiss as a prelude to a quickie, but that would have been a mistake. I would have missed the real story – the slow build towards that kiss and the humanity that went into it. The reality is that it ended as it should have, quietly and without a word. No numbers exchanged. No hands on thighs. I never even knew his name. I knew everything that the moment required, and then we let it go.
It was a hell of a kiss.