First kiss

I remember my first kiss,” I tell Jeremiah, my dead husband. He is behind me, a blurred red comma in the dirt.

You asked me once if you were my first kiss, and I lied, because… well, just because. I heard the timidness in the question. I said you were my first. Your eyes softened. Then came that damned boastfulness that men carry with them, that truckful of swagger. I recall you didn’t kiss me at that moment. Satisfied with my answer, there was no need to punctuate it.

I wanted to tell you what that first kiss tasted like, but didn’t, because then you’d know it wasn’t you. Your kisses were always affectionate, but awkward. You never knew what to do with your mouth, or where your tongue should or shouldn’t go. I should have told you to trust your mouth, let your tongue weave until it became as natural as drawing breath.

I was seventeen and Mama was weeding bull thistles out of the garden. I offered Henry Miller a glass of lemonade. He was a neighbor boy who sometimes helped when things were run down or busted. We’d known each other since childhood. We were talking about the dust and the wind, and then he snuck a kiss. I felt his tongue dash around my teeth, and it startled me. But it was so sudden and sweet that I didn’t push him away. Not at first. It was like a spark set off in my head. Then he tried to slip a hand under my blouse, and I pushed him away, more afraid of Mama if she saw us than of what he was doing. Henry didn’t take offense. He knew he was being a rascal. He was two years older than me, and awfully presumptuous. I didn’t say a word to him, and he smiled, like he knew something about me that I didn’t.

I dreamed about him, and the kiss, for weeks after. It was a moment, a snuck kiss on the porch, with Mama not a hundred yards away, cursing the weeds. I always wondered, what if….

It might have meant a different life. I try hard not to think about it, but it keeps returning, over and again. And see here, here I am thinking about it still, with you lying dead not two miles down the road.

Lord, will this road never end.

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