Sunday, June 18, 2006

First kiss....

I finished a book moments ago - "69", by Murakami Ryu. I have been a great fan of Murakami Haruki (no relation) for a long time now, having been introduced to his writings in Korea, and many people who heard that I like Haruki suggested Ryu to me - I can only imagine they had more reason to do so than a shared surname!

Both write about Japan, and both share a wistfulness and even a sadness - but the keenness of Haruki's sense of the isolation of the individual is much more pronounced. This sense of isolation makes the moments of human connection all the more poignant.


"Jane..." My heart felt like it was going to burst, but I went ahead and said what I'd already decided to say, "Have you ever been kissed?"
She laughed. I was so embarrassed I turned red from my ears to my toenails. After a while she stopped and looked into my eyes and shook her head.
We both stopped swinging, and the angel closed her eyes. My heart was pounding, saying Go on go on go on go on go on go on go on. I got off my swing and stood in front of her. To say my knees were trembling would be a hopeless understatement; my entire body was shimmying like the moon on the river. It was hard to breathe. I wanted to run away. I crouched and looked at the angel's lips. They seemed like a wondrous, separate living being, like nothing I had seen before, a beautiful creature breathing pale pink in the dim light of the moon and the street lamps, quivering faintly. I didn't have the courage to touch them.


As you read the passage you start to tumble across the words, almost getting ahead of yourself in the rush to that magic moment - that never happens and crushes us with regret. We've all been there and are keen to reexperience the rush with this Japanese student in the summer of 1969.

It doesn't take me to my first kiss ever, but it takes me a first kiss of monumental proportion in the summer of '98.

Sitting on cool concrete church steps and holding hands. Feeling the closeness, feeling the desire...and the rush of giddy fear.

But its as unstoppable as the compulsion that led you to hold her hand for the first time that Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks earlier.

Did you keep your eyes open or were they closed?

Your heads tilted and moved towards each other in the still night air. And your lips brushed together softly and tenderly, hunger held in check for now so you can test the waters.

And then your teeth clash.
Embarrassed laughter.
Crimson cheeks.

Maybe a murmured apology, or something else, forgotten, mumbled to bridge the awkwardness before trying again. And again........

And the world is perfect, and each streetlight stands out more clearly and illuminates the nighttime urban landscape with a sharpness and clarity that makes even those city streets beautiful.

I revisited those concrete stairs before I left Seoul.

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