A Last First Kiss

 

We had been sitting next to each other – awkwardly at first, then more comfortably – for about an hour. I could feel his thigh pressed against mine. When he moved his arm, I felt his sleeve brush against my sleeve. He made bad jokes and gave me lopsided smiles while I babbled non-stop in an effort to disguise my nerves. He took a phone call and unfolded himself from the couch to pace the room, so I moved to the window to look out over the river. Even from across the room I felt like there were delicate filaments of feeling tying us together, vibrating with the low sound of his voice and the shy uncertainty woven through my every action. I absent-mindedly flicked through a stack of DVDs as he wrapped up the call, and then he crossed the room until he was standing right in front of me, toe to toe.

“So?” I said.

He smiled down at me. “So.”

My gaze slid sideways to avoid meeting his eyes.

“Are we going into town?”

“No.”

I looked up then to find him looking down at me with an intensity he hadn’t had earlier. I felt it; a strange, electric thickness that hung in the air between us.

And then he dipped his head.

And then his lips met mine.

And that was my last first kiss.

******************************************************************

I was thinking today about being single.

Not longing after it, or wondering how it would be to be single now (although the thought of Tinder makes me deeply uncomfortable), but rather thinking about how I felt when I was single. I loved being single. I enjoyed myself immensely. If ‘love is… selfless‘ then ‘being single is… never having to compromise‘, and there is an unrestricted joy in that. You can do everything for yourself, by yourself, whenever you want, however you want. Your time is your own. There are a lot of things to love about it.

Still, if I were asked what I loved most about being single, it wouldn’t be that I had more me-time, or that I never had to compromise on holiday destinations.

It would have to be the microsecond before a first kiss.

I don’t mean casual first kisses. I don’t mean spin-the-bottle kisses, or truth-or-dare kisses, or seven-minutes-in-heaven kisses. I don’t mean prearranged kisses at teen discos, or kisses that are granted through friends of friends. I mean the few first kisses with people who matter. I mean the monumental first kisses; the kisses that feel like they might change everything and turn your world right on its head.

There is a strange magic about that sliver of time. That fraction of a second before your lips meet is loaded with possibility and hope and anticipation and excitement and sometimes a tiny flicker of fear. There are infinite lifetimes contained within that split moment. It’s like pulling hard on a lever to suddenly and irreversibly switch tracks. It sets you down a course that might lead anywhere. It might take you to a beautiful place, or on a short but scenic route on the way to somewhere else, or it might lead you through a dark tunnel… or it might just send you smack into the side of a mountain before burying you in a landslide of despair.

You have no way of knowing.

If you’re anything like me, all of these barely-thoughts and almost-feelings fuse into a single burst of energy that electrifies the air. Trepidation, lust, expectation, unease, desire and apprehension slam into the thrill of the unfamiliar to create an exhilarating mixture and, in all of its innocence, I honestly think it’s the most wholesome form of intoxication.

Now, my last first kiss is behind me* and instead, in the future, I’ll be experiencing subcategories of that kiss: first kiss as a wife**; maybe first kiss as a mother***. Who knows?

Here’s what I do know:

I pulled the lever and switched tracks that day without hesitation, and I have never regretted it. That’s pretty unusual for an overthinker such as myself, who goes back and forward over the same patch of memory with the fine-toothed comb of anxiety, worrying and wondering about all the other ways things might have gone and might still go.

So while I miss first kisses of that magnitude, I don’t regret having kissed them goodbye.

(And I don’t regret that pun, either.)

 

*Barring some awful tragedy. Touch wood.

**Typing that felt like an out-of-body experience. The word ‘wife’ sounds bizarre when you’ve been a girlfriend for so long. I already struggle with ‘fiancee.’

***(shudder of fear)

St. Patrick’s Day from an Irish Perspective

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Once more from the top.

St. Patrick’s Day is either referred to as St. Patrick’s Day or Paddy’s Day. Those are the only acceptable terms. St. Pat’s Day, St. Patty’s Day, any and all of the other variations… they make Irish people feel so unclean they need to scour with wire brushes just to scrape off the horror. Please don’t use them. Please. PLEASE.

In addition, it’s shamrock we use, not clover. These are same, same, but different. Shamrock has three leaves, clover has four. Shamrock is what we use on St. Patrick’s Day because legend has it that St. Patrick used the plant to explain the holy Trinity to the pagans of Ireland. He used the one stalk and three leaves to demonstrate how the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit were all one.

You see now why clover doesn’t quite fit the bill; that pesky extra leaf really gets in the way of the story.

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Not this one.

St. Patrick’s Day is a day when the world seems to almost become more Irish than the Irish themselves. Little leprechaun hats, and Kiss Me I’m Irish t-shirts, and green-tinted sunglasses, and shamrock badges, and face paint, and all sorts appear on the streets of Dublin city, and all of these things are almost exclusively draped on tourists. Here’s the thing; the only Irish people you tend to see in Dublin city centre on St. Patrick’s Day are either parents with small children, or small children. The rest of the population has scattered, bunkered down in their homes to survive the touristocalypse. Usually this is done with a decent amount of alcohol and some friends. I myself can’t remember the last time I went into town on St. Patrick’s Day. At most, I’ll wear green eyeliner on the day and listen to some U2 and Sinead O’Connor.

When you’re a wee thing, the St. Patrick’s Day parade is a great day out. Usually raining, you drag your parents out to stand in the cold. You watch smiling American baton-twirlers in woefully weather-inappropriate clothing file past while clenching their teeth to stop them from chattering. There are giant floats, and someone usually presses some Cadbury’s Roses into your hand, and you can usually expect to find a tatty cowboy hat and some green beads in the gutter. Afterwards, you go home beaming.

Your parents usually trail behind in a noticeably less enthusiastic fashion, holding all the junk you’ve collected off the ground. This is later disposed of surreptitiously while you’re turned the other way.

After a while though, you realise that actually the parade is not worth leaving your house for, especially since they televise the whole thing. You get a much better view from your comfortable couch at home than five people deep in a crowd full of soaked, screaming children. The day is a national holiday, and we definitely take good advantage of that fact, but we like to leave Temple Bar to the tourists who arrive in droves every year to drink pints on the cobblestones.

It’s nice to see people from all over celebrating our tiny island. When you zoom out a bit, it’s pretty incredible that today, people all over are enjoying our culture, or at least their idea of it. I mean, we don’t have a day of the year when we all celebrate Portugal, for example, or the state of Indiana. Both of these are roughly the same size as Ireland. It’s lovely that Irish people have traveled enough and made enough of an impact globally to have this day of green-hued shenanigans. It makes me feel quite proud, actually, when I think about it that way.

So happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! In uncharacteristically cheesy fashion I’ll add a little  old Irish blessing here for you:

May your neighbors respect you,
Trouble neglect you,
The angels protect you,
And heaven accept you.

…Now where’s my green eyeliner?