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┬áto 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)

Settling Down

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There’s something about the term ‘settling down’ that makes me panic. What kind of a term is that? “Settle down.” It’s the kind of thing you say to people when they’re acting hysterically and won’t listen to reason. It’s what you say to a spooked horse, or a hyperactive child. Even on their own, neither of the words are particularly positive; ‘settling’ gives the impression that you begrudgingly wound up in a situation you’re not entirely happy with, and ‘down’ has a negative sort of connotation all of its own. Why can’t you ‘settle up’? It can be a bit frightening to think about spending a lifetime with one person. I definitely think that’s true.

That horrible phrase doesn’t help though.

Neither do the jokes guys make about ‘the ball and chain’ or being forced into marriage reluctantly. Who wants to be a ball and chain? What a miserable description. When I hear grown men joke about it I honestly come out in hives. Over the weekend I listened to this one guy “joke” about how he didn’t even want to get married every time his fiancee’s back was turned. She would come over to join the conversation every so often and tell some charming, amusing anecdote about some element of their relationship, and as soon as she wandered away he would be miming slitting his own throat and making faces to make his friends laugh.

I mean… What the hell?

It baffles me that this is somehow considered hilarious banter. I can promise you now that if that guy ever had that situation reversed on him, he would absolutely hit the roof. Never have I heard those kinds of words come from the mouth of a guy who would take the converse in stride. In fact, if any one of these guys overheard their girlfriend or fiancee make fun of him to her friends while his back was turned, they would have a meltdown so massive their ego might never recover.

Some people can be such prats, honestly.

Anyway, back to settling down.

I can get pretty spooked about it. Every so often I’ll think about it and feel a wave of uncertainty. At first, when I examine my fears, they have a very particular form to them. I can practically turn them over in my mind. What if I get sick of them? What if they start to irritate me all the time? What if I fall out of love?

Once I scoop my way past that shallow layer though, I realise that the real fear comes from the underbelly of my superficial thoughts. What if they get sick of me? What if I start to irritate them all the time? What if they fall out of love?

It all sounds so easy – you ‘settle down’, you make a home, you go out, you have friends over, you live happily ever after… But what about all the what ifs? What if you start to feel trapped? What if you feel lonely, or unheard, or unconsidered? What if you forget all the things about the person that you fell in love with? What if you don’t take the time to remember how you felt the first time you met them? What if you start to resent them? What if small issues snowball into unbreakable barriers between you?

There are six things that I’ve learned from experience are vital for a healthy relationship:

  • Trust
  • Honesty
  • Gratitude
  • Respect
  • Love
  • Communication

Without any one of these, the whole house of cards can come fluttering down in a depressing cascade of emotions. I’ve been in a rotten relationship before, and I think it really opened my eyes to how rare it is to be in a good relationship. It’s so, so much better to be single than to hang onto something that’s missing any of the above.

Maybe I’ll never ‘settle down.’ Maybe I’ll just refuse to ever use those words unless I’m one day in a situation where I’m patting a nervous horse on the nose. Maybe I’ll settle UP, and the ‘settling’ won’t be the begrudging sort, but instead the comfortable type; like the way you settle into your favourite armchair with a good book.

And when I think about it that way, it really doesn’t sound scary at all.

 

*Header image is obviously an image of my dream reading armchair. I will share with the pupper. We will squidge. It will be perfect.