The Wife tells me that her writing class has asked me to respond to the story she has written here:
Damned impertinence, if you ask me--assigning homework to people not even registered for the course. But I'll do what I can.
I have fond memories of the night she writes about, though it's odd and irrelevant details that stay in my mind, like the color of the plastic cups we grabbed from my room for drinking wine, and the fact that they had come from some college function years earlier, back in Atlanta.
But I remember the big picture too. It was definitely a movie scene--and not just in retrospect. For me, it was less laden with Serious Meaning. I mean, it was a good kiss, for sure, and a great evening. But at the time, it didn't signal anything life-changing to me. I didn't think to myself, "I'm going to marry this person."
Of course, I did marry this person, albeit years later, on a different coast, after my Starter Marriage dissolved.
(Dissolved? Let's be fair: "was wrecked by me.")
I did marry this person, and now it's almost eleven years later. Eleven years of marriage. Two kids. Too many jobs. Too much to do, always. Is there such a thing as a Perfect Kiss now?
For me, it's not about how the kiss feels. I know how kisses feel. For me, it's about what a kiss can do.
She's standing in some room; it doesn't matter which. Her face is wan and tired--or furrowed with concentration. She is absorbed in something important--there is always something important that needs attending to. (I often tell her that on her tombstone, I'll have carved the epitaph, "She Got Things Done." It's just a joke, of course--I'm sure to go before her.)
So many things demand our attention and don't really deserve it--and the things that really deserve our attention escape us. I'm as guilty as anyone, but it's always easier to see from the outside.
(Drama Queens, current and recovering, please feel free to recite Emily's speech from Act III of Our Town at this point)
I come up behind her and kiss her on the back of her neck--gently enough to brush the soft hairs there and feel the goosebumps rise up. I place my hands on her shoulders and the tops of her arms, and I turn her around--if she is still too absorbed in Whatever to turn around on her own. And I kiss her--not our usual, fleeting, catch-her-in-the-hallway kind of kiss, the kiss of busy people running in different directions--but a real kiss. An "I remember you" kiss. And on a good day, I can feel the cares and worries and distractions fall away--and when I pull my face back, I can see her smile.
She has many smiles. I guess we all do, but I'm a specialist in this one person, and I know her smiles. This one is the one I wanted--the big grin, not posed or poised or controlled, but automatic and enormous, making the corners of her eyes wrinkle and the green in her eyes twinkle. She hunches up her shoulders a bit and giggles a little. It is a radiant smile--a room-changing smile.
She thinks it's a goofy smile, but she's wrong. It's the smile that I married.
I'm not 25 anymore, so I don't expect a kiss to change the world. But anything that can stop the world--if only for a few minutes--a few minutes to help me remember, and remark, and recharge--that's a blessing.