Sally-Anne Wilkinson: The Kiss

In this moment, rising out of everything, it’s our first kiss I remember. To me, it’s far clearer than where we met or what we wore – though that’s something we argued about regularly. You said you wore green, but I’m certain you wore blue. And our first meeting? You were on the bench in the park, but you insisted it was a different bench – the one by the river. Your hair, an abundance of curls, was in a topknot that day, but you said no – you wore it down, freshly washed, the morning cold entwined in the damp spirals. I may have it wrong, I may not. It’s not something to worry about now. We have two minds, two sets of memories and emotions, two sets of eyes.

For the longest time, ensnared in rituals of work and family, we lost our kiss, and we lost each other.

Each night, exhausted after a day on the lathe, I’d hang my mask on a hook by the door. You were rushed and pushed by children, while I, covered in dust, was brushed away. We sank into our own lives. We didn’t realise then, but the kiss wasn’t lost; just misplaced – like old coins buried down the back of a sofa. We needed to look in the right place; to wipe away the grit and debris; to expose the glint of copper and nickel beneath.

And now with our children grown and gone, I lie beside you on the bed: our chests swelling and falling to a rhythm where I take four breaths to your one. The windows are shuttered, the room shrouded in grey light, and I see the outline of your hair, and catch a wet gleam in your eyes. Today I wear a different mask. It covers my mouth and nose like the ones I used to wear, but this time it’s moulded from clear plastic. Attached to it by a tube, a tank of oxygen sits by the bed. I want to speak, but words drain my energy. You put your finger to your lips and stroke the stubble on my cheek.

Your hair is auburn, though over the years the red became interwoven with threads of silver. A rogue curl springs away from the rest, flopping down to rest on your mouth. An echo through time reminds me how once we could forget everything with the touch of our lips. I try to raise my mask, and after a brief pause, you help lift it away. As if you understand, you lean forward and press your mouth against mine. Again, the familiar soft pressure, the scent of your own particular perfume, the ache, the line of longing that pulls from my lips to a place deep within.

My breath labours. You lean forward to replace my mask, but I pull my head away. No. You look at me for a long moment, and edge closer. The mattress dips further under our weight. Face-to-face, hip-to-hip, knee-to-knee, we are joined. We kiss again. With each halting inhalation, I gaze into your eyes and understand this moment will remain with me forever.

black tree

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Photo by Tomek Dzido