Just One Kiss

I honestly can’t remember her face, to save the life of me. I remember she was a brunette, with a voluptuous figure, and I remember she wore heels. I remember she wore an unusual vanilla musk perfume that reminded me of a scratch-n-sniff Sesame Street Cookbook I had as a child.

I met her during the winter break in my second year of college. I can’t even remember her name, but I remember I met her in a pool hall in Aurora. It was an all night place, designed for people too young to drink. It was very bright, and I remember there were always a lot of Asian kids in there, perfecting their bank shots and making fun of the Americans in a language we couldn’t understand.

But we still spent many weekends there, out in the suburbs, and it was on one of those weekends I met her.

She was playing on a table next to ours, and we made eye contact several times. One of the girls who was with my group of friends noticed the exchange, and prodded me to do something.

To be honest, I wasn’t very confident at the time. Although I had sufficiently rebounded from my first real heartbreak (by causing another oneÃ?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ but that’s a different story), I still hadn’t polished my mojo to the chome-and-starshine gleam it is today. But my friend persisted, finally walking over to her and taking her by the hand and leading her to me.

We chatted awkwardly, but in the end I left with her phone number, and we spent the next three weeks of evenings together, watching movies, playing pool and talking. And talking.

I fell in love with her.

But in that three weeks, we shared no real physical contact. There was no kiss, other than a peck on the cheek when we parted. An occasional friendly hug might ensue, but that was as far as anything progressed.

To make matters worse, I was on a deadline. She went to school out of state, at Tulane. And in just a few days, she was leaving for New Orleans.

I decided I’d press the issue. If she was interested in anything further then our friendship, I had to know now, before it got any worse. I was convinced she wanted more, though. Why else did she blow off all her old high school friends to spend her entire winter break with me?

I took her out on a date. I took to dinner at an upscale cafÃ?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ on 17th, and then to Civic Center Park, where we stared at the City and County building, still lit up for the holidays. For a few moments, standing there, we were quiet. I could hear my heart pounding in my chest. My mouth was dry and I was shaking. She thought I was cold, but that wasn’t it at all.

I looked over at her, saw the red and green and white lights dancing in her eyes. A wave of dizziness hit me, and for a brief moment, I thought I was about to pass out. She felt me swoon slightly and asked me if everything was okay.

“Not really,” I said, my voice shaking much more than I wanted to.

“Why?” she asked. “What is the matter?”

I hesitated only a brief second. And then I spoke.

“I’ve been with you every night for the last three weeks. For the past 21 nights, I’ve spent every minute with you in my sight. With your face in front of me, with your scent intoxicating me. And every moment of the day I haven’t been with you physically, I thought about you. And I could still smell you on my jacket and still see your face in front of me and still hear your voice.”

She caught her breath and was staring at me, wide-eyed and silent, and I was past the edge of tomorrow. I felt a cactus roll its spiny limbs up my back.

“And I know you’re leaving in a few days, and I know the timing here sucks. It sucks more than anything. It’s unfair, and it makes me feel like I’ve committed some kind of horrible transgression against karma. But I can’t let you leave without saying this.”

My voice cracked and I coughed to try to cover it. Then I took a deep breath and went on.

“I love you. In the last 21 days, I’ve fallen completely, head-over-heels, Joanie-and-Cha-chi in love with you. When you’re gone, I miss you, and when I’m with you, I’m dreading the moment when you’ll be gone and I’ll miss you again. And you’re leaving in three days, and now, looking at your face, I’m afraid this is the last time I’m ever going to see you again.”

And I stood there staring at her. And she looked back at me, and then I realized I was crying, and then I realized she was crying. And then she stepped forward and kissed me.

And I’m sure it lasted at least a few moments, because I was completely out of breath when she pulled away, but it felt like the most fleeting of instants.

Because then, without a word, she turned on her heel. And she ran.

She took off like a shot. And I started after her, but she got to the bus stop on Colfax and jumped on as the door closed.

And as I watched her standing on the top step of the bus as it pulled away, she didn’t turn and look back at me.

I called her house until her parents threatened to call the police on me. They always told me she was out, hanging out with her friends from high school. I drove by the pool hall 10 times a night, by her folks’ house another 10 times a night.

And the third day came and went.

And I never heard from her again.

The question I’m asked whenever I tell this story is, “If you had it to do over again, would you tell her?”

If you had asked me that question later that night, I would have said no. If you had asked me that question a month later, I would have said no. But then, the following winter, I drove by civic center park, and stopped at the lights. And I realized then that I would have absolutely told her. Again and again.

Because had I not risked everything, had I not risked my heart and my soul to that moment, had I not laid bare my entire essence and all my hopes and dreams on the alter right then and there �¯�¿�½

Then I would never have gotten that kiss.

And it was better to risk it all for just one kiss, than to risk nothing just to wonder if I’d ever have gotten that one kiss.

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