On Kissing, by Heather Fowler

For ten years, somebody looks at you, imagining a kiss. Let’s say they look at you, not “you” in person, but the you in photographs, updated regularly online. But they don’t just look at you; they talk, too. And they talk and you talk and you talk and they talk. Much more of everything and nothing flows back and forth on silly wires, carried by messages, e-missives full of “L”s and “O”s and repeated “L”s. Lots of colons and parenthesis in grimace, too—so it’s funny and tragic how much you two talk, but they’re married and you’re married and though there’s one chance for you two to get together, several years in, in that moment of planning, through some major flaw in character, they chicken out and stand you up. Yep. So there you are, stood up, online and in person, and this is the face you make: :-<

This just before you wish them fuck-off, have a nice day you vanishing snail-trail. And though you’d imagined the taste of their lips many times—like coffee, like sunbursts, like chamomile or Almond Joy or onion bagel, what you're left with then is dry, lonely lips, air on your lips, nice full lips that might once have gone somewhere good, for which there was a planned destination but no arrival, and reflecting on this, well, you know Shelley said in Prometheus Unbound: souls meet souls on lovers’ lips. And e.e.cummings said kisses were better fates than wisdoms. And Plath said, “Kiss me and you will see how important I am”—and so you believed them all. And maybe Aristotle didn’t kiss much or talk much about kissing, though he was big on "friend" narratives, but he still felt that hope, which to you was kissing, was the dream of men who were awakening—though, as such, you could not awaken then! Had been robbed of awakening! And kissing!
And you had no more of that get-up-go juice. And so you slept hard for three more years that felt like two hundred as you lived off your lack (of spit to spit, or souls touching, or fates and wisdoms combining, or the dream of your own importance)–until another man came along. Damn, was he fine! He kind of flirted back. You liked him. What do you know?

Well, you do know shit happens, but in a stroke of good luck, at this point, you had no remaining husband; you'd lost him like a purse hook or a contact lens in utero in swimming pool. A short story, this: WHO might EVER want to be with a lover who slept non-stop? Your husband didn't. He complained of your irritating snoring like emotional housecleaning and existential floundering.

And though you spoke to this new man for two years, going tap, tap, tap, finger, stroke, pull–looking into his somebody-like eyes, his somebody hot image, his all too distant jpeg, and imagined a kiss, one day it all became too much, your lippage lack! So you sent an urgent missive that said: “My lips. My lips! They need you. Come quickly. It is an emergency.”

You couldn’t help yourself. Your need was dire. Your fate was still cruel. You were an astronaut in space, requesting immediate oxygen, or, um, kissing, before re-entry. And so you made a plan then to travel to your new somebody so that he could kiss and cradle you for aeration or moisturization. This was all you wanted. You said, “It would be a life dilemma should you deny me… I've been denied too much.” You said, “I won’t expect too much, not from you, anyway. I know you're busy.” And then you said, “Don’t even speak first, though fainting would be fine.” And you begged, “Just please, please, oh please, sweep me into your arms when we meet like night will never fall again unless you hold me still beside you—you don’t have to mean it, all this radiant feeling shit—but hold me like I will cease to exist until you have pulled me in so close my own heart is flush against yours, so close that I will not know where I end or you begin—because that is my only assumed cure for so much erstwhile deprivation, for all that I've endured.” You then said, sniffling for yourself just loud enough to make that sniffling unfamiliar to a cold: "Dear sir: You see, I've been a casualty of love."

In response, he smiled. Like this: 🙂

This smile was universal. It was kind. It was clear. Had he been Indonesian, you would have got it.
…And he said okay.

But there were still three months to go before your travels—and you, oh, you, would keep wakeful sleeping for as long as you possibly could until then, willing time to rush enjambed tables like rush-hour waitresses or expand cyber-feeds like teen Twitter narratives, imagining some transcendental kind of awakening in your future, imagining a kiss, his kiss, as a portal to a new you, because you had a new him, or a better him, or a not-so-him-at-all-yet-different-him– but nothing about you aside from your wish for newness had changed really.

You were still a kisser, always a kisser, sleeping or awake, front to rear, man to man or wish to wish–but you could simply wait no longer. You were older now, smarter, with less time on your boat's horizon. Your boat was dinged up. You thought it might sink, considered sinking it yourself, maybe with your nose or in self-spite to your face.

So when you met Mr. damn-he's-fine-online you knew your eyes would flutter open, flutter closed, and flutter open, whether he was his described age or not, whether those pictures he posted were actually those of the only good angles he had, come hell or high tide, cause you had certainty you needed his pucker, yes, because you knew your hope, him, in whatever vehicle of skin, was due for a necessary arrival, due here, due home, due good, due now, overdue in the worst of ways you admitted, ways that made you crazy, and he would lay it on you, lavish, with his tongue, his hope, and along with it, lay down his lips, his reality, his stare, his awareness that you were not, no, not anymore, fucking around with the ghosts in computer wires, so that then, in that first flurry of your new awakening (him against you, you against him, two against each other, perhaps there'd be a brief verbal hello out of habit alone, but you hoped not), your two disembodied bodies would then gain embodiment via the fastening of souls or mouths that would, when paired, proceed to lend you immense importance–By the way, you are so important!—WHEN, without further ado, in medias res, by a real person stretched along your body like a feather boa, like a man boa, or hopefully tighter like a boa constrictor–all of a sudden, or in 3D (where two hearts might beat like one), this shit for real, yo: … 🙂 … ; – {} … oxxxo—oh yes, you would be kissed.

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