My First Kiss
My fingers felt like they were being individually inflated.
Like tires, they were automatically pumping themselves up, bigger and bigger yet.
Surely, they would explode.
I was positive of that.
I giggled at the image of exploding fingers, my exploding fingers.
I heard the giggle outside myself, an entity, a thing unto itself.
It belonged to a little-girl, that giggle; these exploding fingers, too, belonged to a little girl.
A sick-little-girl, young.
A very young, very-sick-little-girl.
I laughed at the youngness of me, me with my inflated fingers, me squirming and squeaking on this cot, so far from home.
The sound of my laughter seemed an echo in the room, yet another entity, making me guffaw again.
The cot squeaked beneath my sweaty body.
I tried to bite down on the thermometer, hearing my teeth scraping against it.
She took it from my mouth, squinting in the light to read it.
You have 103.
She looked the thermometer again. I could almost touch the concern softening her voice.
That sounded funny to me.
Another giggle flowed out of me, a giggle at the absurdity of that number, the absurdity of any number, of numbers in general.
She wrung out the washcloth and came closer.
I felt her presence.
I always felt her presence.
I always wanted her near me.
Now she was.
She leaned over, closer, placing the cold compress on my forehead.
It was startling. She was startling.
My delirium gave me permission to fall headlong into the startle, to slide closer, deeper into the twist and tangle of feelings.
I flung myself to and fro on the cot, the squeaky little cot, my bed, my bed, so far from home, on this island, this hot and muggy and muddy and dusty and lonely island, so far from home, so far from my parents’ tidy home.
Another number dashed through me.
The miles home.
From this squeaky cot in the Philippines, my Peace Corps dream manifested, helping-others-helping-others-helping-others.
All I ever wanted was to help.
His worried, silent disapproval.
My mother, her remote ferocity of love.
So far from me, yet here, right here, right here.
Don’t feel this. Don’t love her. Don’t touch her.
She leaned over me. I could smell her shampoo, so deeply embedded in my mind, my heart.
Don’t feel this.
She hovered above me now, close, close enough to feel her breath.
Close enough to feel her warmth.
She leaned closer, holding my wrists, leaning into me, leaning into, don’t feel, keeping me still.
Her hair, beautiful black never-ending hair, brushed my face.
From nowhere, from everywhere, don’t do it, don’t feel this, her lips grazed me.
Grazed my lips.
And from the depth of delirium, from the corner of the madness of fever, came the beacon of clarity, the voice I always knew, the voice I never heard:
THIS FEELS GOOD!
She felt good. Her lips, her presence, her hair, her caring, her deep eyes, her soft, soft voice.
THIS FEELS GOOD!
And with focused clarity that illuminated every cell in my body, I knew, I knew:
I had to be this far away from home—9,000 miles—I had to be this far out of my conscious mind—103 degrees of fever—this separate from my world—to be able to feel—just for this nanosecond, the touch of a woman’s lips on mine.
The touch on my lips!
Her touch on my lips.
Her lips on mine.
And the memory passes.
And the scene fades.
And Butuan City disappears.
And the feelings go underground.
And Honey recedes.
And five decades pass.
And I will always love her.
Always love her.
For that kiss.
For that first kiss.
Dear Reader-Folk, touch, such a gateway to the heart, love, such a precious commodity. I continue to find my way forward in these waters, as I practice allowing the preciousness of love, of touch, of standing, legitimized and solid, in my being. A work in progress. I am a work in progress. How about you? Any memories? Any insights? You can always contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Honoring the journey—