Fill in two names, and they’re sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G.
Kiss (kIs) v. 1. To touch or caress with the lips, as if in affection or greeting. 2. To touch lightly or gently. n. 1. A caress or touch with the lips. 2. A slight touch.
Yes, some love transcends STDs, but none really avoids getting caught in a treehouse, entangled in someone else’s limbs.
“A kiss is a lovely trick designed to stop speech when words become unnecessary.”
Not only does it transcend STDs, it transcends consciousness. In the movies, when one flustered lover is over-explaining something at the breakfast table, they are silenced with a kiss.
I saw them downtown, in the park, perched on the edge of an art nouveau fountain. Her hair was short and messy, in the middle of several dye jobs—I noticed because his carpenter’s hand was at the back of it, drawing her lips up to his. They had been here earlier, stopping at Speeder & Earl’s for cheap coffee and a scone in a futile attempt to ward off the New England winter. His height was in his legs—a good eleven inches above her—but when sitting they were almost at eye level. That was when they kissed. He had been feeling tired that morning but agreed to meet his girlfriend anyway, thinking caffeine would wake him up. I could smell her lip gloss—mint—as the germs, enticed by the aroma of crushed herbs, packed fatigue in old-fashioned valises and found their way into the creases of her lips, the lining of her cheek, the roof of her mouth.
Infectious mononucleosis n. An acute infectious disease caused by Epstein-Barr virus and marked by fever, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, and lymphocyte abnormalities. It primarily affects adolescents and young adults, being spread by saliva transfer and other modes.
Slang: mono, kissing disease.
When the kiss broke off, their breath congealed in the air, with every exhale casting more germs out, concealed in clouds of smog and moisture. He took another sip of cold coffee where the grains had settled at the bottom, drinking it black. She blew steam to warm her hands inside home-knitted mittens. Her coffee, too, had cooled since their brisk walk, where they had half-skipped, hands in each other’s pockets. He put his arm around her frail shoulders, and apologized for being so out of sorts today, but he felt sick and had to go home.
“Love is a disease!”
The germs that had lodged in the grooves of her mouth slowly trekked down the sides of her throat, shimmying into an unexplored cave. They teetered on the tip of her veins before diving into the bloodstream.
I could see them wave goodbye, after another peck on the cheek, leaving a mint-flavored mark on his sandpaper face. He felt it when the wind blustered against him, like inhaling after a peppermint. The green and white striped tube stuck out of his girlfriend’s pocket. I could see her get up, thighs numb from the marble fountain, and hurry to Speeder & Earl’s for another coffee.
She showed up again the next day, after the first snowfall, but without her boyfriend. She’s woken up feverish, languid, and decided that a walk in the biting air would do her good. I could tell what she was thinking—get out of the house, you hermit! That day she didn’t have enough for more than a small green tea at Starbucks. The day after that she wasn’t there at all.
When the doctors drew his blood, they found matching anomalies in hers. The germs had set up camp, on the inner tube white cells, coursing down through blood channels. Two months later, I saw him walking to her house, the snow a foot deep now, not bothering to stop for coffee. And when he got there, I believe, he tried to kiss her. But she was too listless to kiss back.