I woke this morning to the memories of first kiss; a rather pleasant way to greet the day.
My first real kiss arrived unexpectedly in 1971. My family had recently moved to Oklahoma; I was invited to a party with fledging high school friends. When Kristen switched off the living room lights at an opportune moment, the girl next to me—let’s call her Grace—wiggled into my arms and introduced me to the wonder of open lips and wandering tongue. As a newcomer to Native America, I suppressed my inclination to recoil from local customs. I imitated her technique.
I worried that Grace, and others, would intuit my greenhorn status. But Monday gossip whistled along our high school corridors that Shorty Fallon was a good kisser. I breathed relief and thanked god that, as a tuba player born in the bottle-fed 1950’s, I possessed both excellent embouchure and insatiable oral need.
Grace and I proved to be an excellent pair of kissers. After all, she played French horn. But the pressures of dating eclipsed our ecstasy. In Oklahoma circa 1971 high school sweethearts often skipped right on into marriage and parenthood. Everyone seemed to dance to that agenda except me, constitutionally thick to unspoken customs. Grace and I crashed and burned before high school’s end with drama worthy of Dallas. I headed East.
My second first kiss occurred two years later, back in Oklahoma, at a holiday party during my first return from college. The crowd was pretty much the same, though we had graduated from Kristen’s mother’s living room to Allen’s basement apartment. Furtive sips of Boone’s Farm had given way to cases of Bud. We shared just enough joints to spawn a cloudy haze. As our night of reverie approached dawn, I stood against a doorframe, silent, my customary dullard response to a second hand high.
‘William’ came up to me, round and bleary from a lack of sleep and an excess of everything else. Any introductory words are long forgotten. He moved toward my face. Our lips drew open and closed upon each other. William was a large boy, 250 pounds if an ounce. I fell into his girth. I felt the stubble breaking through his pimply skin. Almost a man.
Our kiss lasted hours, or so it seemed. It certainly lingered past daybreak. One long, wet, hot, beer and dope smooch. Our tongues must have tangled, though what I most recall is the hollow void within his immense cheeks, the support of his solid mass. I have no clue if anyone else saw us, or cared what they saw. We did not pull away until mutually satisfied. “I love you, Shorty.” Words I’d heard from Grace, and the girl after that. Words I had never repeated, and did not repeat now, although coming from William, their meaning was less fraught.
I never kissed William again. He died young. I’ve always felt loved by him, and trust he knew I reciprocated our affection.
For almost twenty years after kissing William, I marched to a life plan: marriage; school; children; career; that didn’t even acknowledge the possibility of guys. I was not unhappy, neither was I content or fulfilled. I kept thinking that striving for what I ought to want would one day deliver satisfaction. It never did.
When the life I constructed imploded, I started kissing boys again. Men now, with guts and sagging chins, exciting despite the weight of gravity. The singular aspect I liked most about being gay was not the rough skin or surplus appendages. It was the spontaneity. In the 1990’s, after HIV was understood and before marriage was possible, gay men’s actions and emotions existed in the moment. Completely. We celebrated fundamental natures that are evolutionarily irrational.
I am grateful to live in a time and place where being gay carries no penalty; I work for a time when that can apply to everyone, everywhere. My preference for kissing boys over girls doesn’t have any repercussions for my life, aside from making it so much more satisfying.
And so when I awake to the memory of my first boy kiss, I simply luxuriate in the delight.