The first time I was kissed, other than by my close relatives, I was outraged. Phillip had no right to seize my face with a hand on each cheek and press his mouth to mine. I was almost four years old. He was a few months younger.
Yes, I was truly outraged by that unsolicited kiss. I burst into tears while Mrs. Lathrop told my mother how they had always encouraged Phillip not to inhibit his feelings but to express them freely. She frowned at me. Apparently she felt that I was expressing my feelings much too freely.
With this early conditioning against kisses, I managed to avoid most of them for the next fourteen years or so. That’s when I had my first real kiss, the kind that can resonate for a lifetime.
We had held hands. We had compared philosophies. We had hiked together, gotten poison oak together, sung together. But we had yet to kiss. And I wanted desperately to be kissed by Otto.
As I crossed the quad and skirted the chapel, I entered a cloud of fragrance from a planting of small trees with tiny flowers with the texture and scent of gardenias. I broke off a twig and stuck it in my pocket. The sun was setting and the first star appeared, and, quickly, before the appearance of other stars destroyed the magic, I wished on the first star that tonight he would kiss me.
I don’t remember exactly how we reached the hill overlooking lake Lagunita, on the waters of which myriads of stars were now afloat. I think I may have positioned myself so that it would be very easy for him to kiss me. And he did so.
It was the first of seventy years worth of kisses from the one I love forever. He couldn’t return our last kiss, which I gave to him in the hospital as he lay dying. I miss his kisses, but I have a treasure trove of ones to remember. Especially that first one.