Let's talk about the fine art of kissing. You know, a good, old fashioned lip lock.
Wikipedia: A kiss is the touching of one's lips to another person or object, used to express love, passion, affection, respect, greeting, and good luck. The word comes from Old English cyssan "to kiss", in turn from coss "a kiss". The act of kissing has become a common expression of affection among people, but, until modern times, however, kissing was unknown to certain cultures, such as aborigines, Tahitians, and many tribes in Africa.
No kissing in Tahiti? Even with those beautiful beaches, glorious sunsets and fruity drinks with the little umbrellas? How sad for them.
Ok, here's the best romantic kiss I ever had (you know, before I met my husband, who's the love of my life and a great kisser etc. etc.) and it involves a stranger.
I don't remember the guy's last name, and I can't remember exactly what he looked like, but I'm pretty sure I looked like the lady in this picture, except I was not naked. And he wasn't either. And also, we weren't sitting on a rock, and he didn't actually kiss me on the lips, but I'd like to think I looked like this lady. I'm sure I felt the way she looks, does that count?
So anyway. I was 24. I was on a solo trip through Europe with my backpack and Rick Steve's Europe Through the Back Door book. I had some lovely moments during that trip, including a near religious experience with the colors pink and gold which I wrote about here before, but the truth is, I was lonely.
I would arrive in a new town, find the youth hostel, bravely look around for a friendly face, then start seeing the sites, either with some new friends if I was lucky enough to meet some, or alone. When my bravery wore out, I would sit somewhere and write in my journal, pretending I was in a movie I was writing about myself.
Somehow, somewhere, maybe in Denmark, I met a nice young woman who said I should visit her home town in Bruge, Beligum. So a few weeks later, I did. I called her when I got there, right after I met some American college kids in the hostel.
My friend said I could meet her at her parents house in town for "lunchments" (hey, her English was way better than my dutch!) which was very generous, and it would have been a fantastic opportunity to get to know some locals, just like Rick Steves said I should do.
But after breifly hemming and hawing, I said no thanks, because two of the college kids were male, and both of them were cute, and they had just met another girl in the lobby while we were all checking in, and they wanted me to ride bikes down to the seaside with them. So of course I did.
One thing I did learn on this 3 month solo journey was if you're traveling in and out of new cities and new friendships every day, you have to make split decisions that you might regret later, but you can't waste too much time worrying about them, or you'll miss all the fun.
And I had what I felt was an instant connection with the regular looking red-headed boy in the lobby, so I was going to pursue it, lunchments or no lunchments.
The tall dark and handsome boy should have been a natural choice, especially since he was paying attention to me. But my split second radar knew Handsome was a boring dud, and Red was the one for me. Unfortunately, the other girl liked Red too, which really steamed me. Obviously, her radar was just as good as mine.
Since I'm the writer here, I'm tempted to say the other girl was an irritating floozy with sawdust for brains who lured young men in with her Sorority Girl charm and good looks, then dumped them by the side of the road on the way home from the sea, after she got her fill of attention and free drinks.
But I can't say that. Because that'd be lying. Because actually she was smart and funny she was nice to me. And I knew my lonely self needed to hang out with her just as much as I needed to flirt with the boys.
So we got on our bikes and rode to the sea.
It took 45 minutes to get there, and Sorority Girl and Red were much faster than Handsome and me, so they were way ahead the whole time, chatting and giggling. I was hot and sweaty and irritated, and not in the mood to make small talk with Handsome, who didn't have much to say anyway.
I don't remember much of the sea in Belgium, except that it looked like all the other beaches I'd seen in Northern Europe. Sorority girl and Red were clearly flirting with each other, I was hungry, and the restaurant food was expensive, and I thought "Damn. I should have gone to the local's house for the lunchments."
We decided to ride back to the Hostel in time for happy hour which featured cheap food and cheap beer. 45 minutes later I was still tired and hungry, but now were all sitting together at a table, so I thought I had a chance with Red, since I'm good at talking to a captive audience.
Alas, Sorority girl continued to match my wit and charm long into the night. She had a better story than I did. She was a computer science girl and just finished her MBA. She was going back home to Colorado (of course, Colorado, she was cute, althletic, outdoorsy, and she's probably a tech start up millionaire by now) leaving her boyfriend in France after spending the summer with him. She needed to figure out her life. She wasn't sure she wanted to stay with him. She missed America.
I was from Oregon, with degrees in Fine Arts and English, had just finished a two year stint as a nanny, and was going back to Palo Alto to teach drama at a private school. I know, I know. Not much to work with.
Handsome was an engineer, just starting out somewhere. Of course. He probably works for Sorority girl now, at Google, after she sold her first 3 startups during the tech bubble years.
Red? Well, he had finished grad school on the east coast and this trip was his graduation present from his parents. There was something about history and economics thrown in. He's probably a senator now. Too bad I can't remember his last name. I might be tempted to ask him if he'd like to go hiking on the Appalachian Trail.
I was trying to flirt and made some lame joke about history, but he didn't really get it. Or he did and it wasn't funny. And then their was an awkward silence. His radar must have confirmed that I liked him (duh!) but so did she, and she was so much smoother than me, in many, many ways.
And then he tried to be nice to me, as charity, which made it worse. Because I knew I'd lost.
We all went to our bunkbeds at the same time in the co-ed dorms, so I knew no one slept together, which I hadn't really expected, since we were all just nice kids traveling around, not really looking to hook up, but still. Lonely girls do hope for things, sometimes. Things that might turn into good scenes in the movies in their journals.
Sorority Girl and Red realized they were both leaving for the same ferry early in the morning (or sure, of course she would be on the same ferry...) so they set an alarm so they'd get up at the crack of dawn.
I heard their alarm go off and listened to them rustle around and hurry in the early morning light.
"We're late!" she gasped, as she grabbed her pack off her bunk, "We'll have to run!"
"Go!" he whispered from the bed below me as he threw things in his bag and quickly put on his shoes, "I'll catch up." And so she did.
I sat up then, to watch her go. I wanted to say goodbye, but it was too late.
He stood up then and faced me, as my feet dangled off the edge of the top bunk, nearly kicking him. The top bunks were low, he was tall, and my knees landed near his stomach.
He stood still, as I looked at him, and he looked at me. He didn't say a word, and neither did I, but he reached up, and put his arms around my neck. I put my hands on his shoulders, without really thinking.
And then he leaned in slowly and deliberately, and kissed my neck. Twice. Right in that spot below my chin and to the right, that makes me melt. As if he knew me. He looked at me again, all the way, and touched my cheek with his finger. And I realized I had stopped breathing.
And then he quickly picked up his bag, and ran out the door to catch the ferry. And I never regretted missing the lunchments again.
“Since the invention of the kiss, there have only been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind.”