In honor of Valentine’s Day, a gift for TELESA readers – a piece that may (or may not be) Daniel’s thoughts on kissing. And that kiss. Hope you enjoy it!
Why is that guys are supposed to have kissed tons of girls – or else they’re designated “losers”? While girls are supposed to only have kissed one or two people at the very most – or else they’re designated “sluts”? That never made much sense to me at all. But then there’s a lot about kissing. And girls. That has always eluded me.
When guys get together they like to talk about girls. Which usually leads to talking about who they’ve been kissing lately. Or wanting to kiss lately. Me? I like to adopt a ‘man of mystery’ approach to the whole thing. I tell them that according to my Grandfather, ‘a gentleman never kisses and tells.’ Which of course makes it sound like I’m getting it on with loads of girls. Ha. When really? The truth? I’ve only ever kissed two girls. And I’m not sure forced mouth-mashing actually qualifies. Samantha Matu kissed me in Year 5 when the girls were playing ‘Chase the boys and Kiss Them.’ (Okay, so she was a faster runner than me, but damn, have you seen her? That girl was a giant compared to the rest of us and nobody could escape her. The kiss she plastered on my clamped shut lips was vicious.) My second kiss wasn’t much better. In Year 8 a girl called Malia liked me. So her best friend told my best friend to tell me that I should meet Malia at the back of the school hall. Well, I did and after standing there in total silence for ten minutes, we both had the same idea and kind of smushed our lips together for all of two seconds. Which left me wondering, ‘what the heck is the big deal with kissing anyway?!’
The day I kissed Leila gave me the answer to that question – and then some. We had gone running together at the SamCo field and she had basically killed me in the fitness and endurance department. (Shh, don’t tell Coach.) It was getting dark by the time we were done, so the field was empty. Just me and her with the stars coming out. I remember she was wearing blue running shorts and a white singlet with this black sports halter top kinda thing inside it. She was flushed, sweaty and laughing, really loving the fact that she had just kicked my ass on the track. She smiled up at me. That’s all it took and everything came to a crashing halt, like someone had taken me out with a killer tackle. No air. No sound. Nothing. Why had the world stopped? Why couldn’t I breathe or move or feel anything?
I looked at her. Really looked at her.
I had seen Leila without a shirt before, so I knew that under the clothes she wore with awkward unease – there was a body that dipped and curved in all the right places. In unforgettable ways. (And believe me, ever since the night I had surprised her at the midnight pool, I had been trying not to remember it.) It was easier when she was in the orange and yellow school uniform everyday, but that night, her workout clothes clung to her with sweat in a way that I bet would have made her really mad if she had known. I tried to focus just on her eyes – but my memory was filling in all the tantalizing gaps. The long legs that went on forever. The slight slouch to her shoulders because she was always trying to hide the fact that she was taller than most everyone around her. Her hands that she would wave around all over the place when she was trying to get her point across. The thick rope of hair that I wished I could loosen from its braid, just so I could see if the sandy highlights would catch fire in the moonlight. Her black onyx eyes that could knife through a guy when he was dumb enough to debate with her. Or soften to a midnight ocean velvet when memories entangled her. Or glint with chipped diamonds of laughter when she was teasing me…Are you sure you’re man enough to risk losing a race to a girl? I think I saw you struggling to keep up there for a few laps!
I looked at Leila. And that’s when it hit me. ‘Damn. She’s beautiful.’
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I thought she was ugly before that. No, it’s just that up until that moment, I had been too busy trying to figure her out. Everything about Leila both intrigued and infuriated me. From her anger to the sadness that she drowned in when she talked about her Dad to her ever-readiness to believe the worst of me. Any encounters with Leila inevitably had me feeling like I wanted to smash stuff. Or like I needed to go for a long, hard swim in a icy cold pool. Or both.
But that night, Leila wasn’t making me mad. Or confused. She was just smiling and laughing and talking. And being so damn beautiful that it hurt. A lot. In my chest. My head. And everywhere else that a guy feels stuff.
We sat and talked but I couldn’t tell you what we talked about. I just hope that I made legible sense. I can tell you that she sat beside me on grass that was still warm from the fast fading day. We were barely close enough to touch but every breath I took tasted of her. Chocolate. The savor of roasted koko beans with lots of brown sugar. And hints of vanilla spiced with the burn of chilli. We talked but all I could think about was how beautiful she looked in the moonlight. And wonder… how angry would she be if I tried to kiss her?
And then she ran her fingers along my shoulder, tracing the patterns of the tattoo on my arm. Her touch burned. It was a struggle not to jump up and run a mile in the opposite direction. Because I wanted to touch her back. Hold her. Taste her mouth on mine. And I knew I couldn’t. Shouldn’t.
For the barest of moments, I did try to halt the tidal wave of heat that was sweeping me towards her. I tried. And then I wasn’t trying anymore. Because then a thought, a longing had melded into a moment. I breathed a kiss on her cheek. Her skin was hot. Sweet. And then her lips were opening under mine and I wasn’t thinking anymore. Because I was sinking, melting, drowning in a pool of hot chocolate. Everything splintered into flashes. Swirling like in a kaleidoscope.
Hot. Mouth. Velvet sky. Stars gleaming. Tongue. Searching. Hands. Tugging my hair. Skin against skin. Hard. Sweat. Pulse. Hot. Electrical current wired from earth to heavens. Heart beat. Sweet. Hot. Fire. Raging. Kiss. Faraway ocean roars. Crash. Foam. Leila. Hot. Hot. Fire. Hot.
Too hot. Shit! Ouch.
“Leila, what’s happening?”
She pushed me from her with a strength I didn’t know she had. “Daniel, get away from me!”
And then, the girl who had set me on fire with a kiss – exploded and burst into flames.