When I was in high school I used to sneak out at night and ride my bike across town to a girl’s house, and I knew if I went to see her one of her friends would happily rat me out to her terribly jealous ex-boyfriend and I’d probably have to fight him (again) but I didn’t give two shiny shits about his fists, it was worth the risk to kiss her lips. She had memorably full, soft lips, and she was both tender and passionate when she used them.
She kissed like some women have sex like it’s the only thing that matters because we might die tomorrow. In my world, a kiss like that is always worth a punch from a pissed-off dude.
So I hopped on my bike whenever she asked me to come over. And that’s what you do when you’re a horny teenager. But to be honest, I’d bike across Los Angeles tonight to press lips with a woman I longed to kiss. That’s the great beauty of kissing, it means nothing and at the same time it means everything.
“The decision to kiss for the first time is the most crucial in any love story. It changes the relationship of two people much more strongly than even the final surrender; because this kiss already has within it that surrender.”
– Emil Ludwig
Just before you kiss someone, there is a moment fraught with this sort of exquisite agony. You wonder to yourself: Should I? Since (straight) guys are still socially conditioned to make the first move we feel it’s up to us to make that moment happen. And so, we look for our opportunity. I don’t know how it is for women and girls, but for guys, we step tremulously along a path of uncertainty, hoping it ultimately leads to a woman’s ready lips. And we’re often unsure of the signs because… Newsflash: Woman can be confusing. I’ve always approached uncertainty about a kiss with this sort of ignorant willingness. My thinking is, as long as I don’t force myself on her like some drunken frat beast, I can try for a kiss. I’m always prepared to be wrong. But I’d rather let her tell me than not go for it.
It’s been a long minute since I’ve kissed anyone. So… when the opportunity came up recently, you have no idea how much I wanted to kiss her. Maybe you do. Just imagine how fast some poor bastard lost in the Sahara runs when he sees an oasis. Your body has needs. And those hungry voices don’t go away. If anything, when left unattended, your needs grow stronger. When I saw she and I had rushed past playful flirting and we were now digging in to the first scratches of sexuality, I swear to Kanye, it felt like a furnace door was thrown open inside of me, a load of lumber was piled in and my neglected sexual fires roared to life. My skin flushed. My hands felt hot. My eyes felt hot.
“A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.”
– Ingrid Bergman
The moment before you kiss someone time slows, yet your mind races, hovering and darting about like a hummingbird, while your body remains slow as a garden statue. As your faces linger just inches from each other, their eyes stare into yours. Wordlessly. Possibly smiling. Maybe they’re not. If no one speaks, you resort to a conversation with just your eyes. And hopefully, the conversation leads to eyelids closing and you two kissing. All the while, your heart beats like those blurry wings of a hummingbird.
Sometimes a person’s lips are dry, like they drove top-speed across Death Valley in an open-windowed car just to kiss you. And sometimes their lips are moist like the flesh of a peeled peach. But you won’t know how their lips feel until you lean forward and kiss them. In that moment, waiting face-to-face, I was a dignified pile of aroused flesh that hoped I was imperceptibly quivering. But of course she noticed. She said my hands were shaking. I explained they did that when I was hungry, which is true. They do. At that moment, it was a lie. They were shaking because I wanted to kiss her.
She asked me for one of my hands. Taking it into hers she measured my hand against her spread fingers and palm. She told me she liked my long fingers. She liked how some were slightly twisted and that my left pinky finger didn’t straighten all the way out. I told her the twists were from me refusing to take the time to let them fully heal. I told her how I’d broken all my fingers, both arms numerous times, both knees, all of my toes, my scapula, and as I heard myself recount them I realized the litany of my broken places wasn’t very sexy. I told her I felt I was lucky since seven of my fingers were still the same as they had always been. She laughed. And slid her fingers between mine. She admired how our hands fit together.
She held my hand a long moment and then moved my twisted fingers to her chest. She never broke eye contact as she told me she liked my hands because they were strong and “lived-in,” like her father’s hands. I may be an idiot most of my waking hours but even I know if a girl presses your hand to her breast and compares you to her father, whom she loves and adores, she’s considering what it would feel like to kiss you.
When you want to kiss someone for the first time a gaggle of questions crosses your mind. “Should I?” is always the inevitable first one to ask. Then you wonder- “Okay, when?” And on the heels of that question follows more questions. “How will they respond? How will I respond? Will it ruin everything between us? Or will it make everything totally fucking awesome?” The question follows question. And you’ll never know any of the answers. So instead, of endless debate…
…you have to lean forward and kiss them.
It’s such a strange impulse to shove your mouth on someone else’s, and then possibly, press your tongue into their head. I mean, it’s kinda weird, if you think about it. But that’s true of almost every sex act. “You wanna stick what in my where?”
Recently, I learned the power of a kiss when just the sight of one did a number on me. It was like the opposite ending of a fairytale. Instead of a kiss bonding me to the woman I desired, seeing her kiss another set me free. And now it was a week later, and I was standing face to face with a woman who was telling me in a wordless conversation of just our eyes that she thought it was about time I should kiss her. And I agreed.
When I was in eighth grade I learned how to French kiss from a girl in Idaho. It was summer vacation and I was traveling with a friend’s family up to a magical place called Priest Lake. That girl probably couldn’t have pointed out France on a map if you gave her three tries but she sure knew a lot about French kissing. She’s always shaped my expectation of what a kiss will feel like. Based on her lips, I feel how differently each new woman kisses from her. It’s funny how the mind works. I imagined how much different this new girl would kiss. Would she be more gentle? Would she be messy and slide all over my face? Would she be passionate and kiss like one of us was going off to war?
That first girl in Idaho was a great kisser like so many farm girls are. I got lucky there. This hasn’t always been the case. There was one woman I met at a film screening at a museum. She was intense, kissed like a jackhammer. She tongue fucked me. It was like a moray eel high on meth kept shooting out of its hole in the rocks and then jabbing into my moth with this sort of predatory speed. I wanted to tell her to just stop, but she seemed like she really needed a kiss so I kept going in that self-punishing way writers do just to collect more details for a story they may or may not write.
Kissing is like the dividing line between sex and cuddling. It belongs to neither camp. Don’t get me wrong, sex is great, so is cuddling, but kissing is its own thing. And we often forget those first love-struck feelings when we’re deep into a relationship. We let slip from mind how fucking awesome it is just to kiss them.
Think back to the beginning of your relationship, what would you’ve traded for just one kiss? If you’re not yet in a relationship with someone you’re crushing on, but you’re both circling around each other, doing that dance of availability, you know exactly what I mean.
Down in your bones, you feel the never-ending desire to press your head against theirs, blot out the world, as your skin meets, as your heartbeat pounds a hungry rhythm inside its cage of ribs, and you finally get to know the warmth of their fingers as they ease a hand against your cheek.