She’s barely in first grade when the first boy kisses her. His name is Nathan and he really only did it on a dare, duh. Of course he didn’t really like her, it was just a joke. If it was a joke, then why does it feel this bad? Why does her tummy flip every time she thinks about it and not in the good way? She asks her mother, who chuckles, ruffling her hair. All boys do it, she’s told. Don’t worry, she’s informed, it will feel different when she’s older. Only it doesn’t.
She’s in seventh grade when another boy kisses her, this one by the name of Jonah. It’s definitely not a prank or a joke. They’re in the school garden and she’s just tried one of the strawberries when he presses his mouth to hers. She recoils instantly. The sweetness on her lips isn’t for him. He glares at her when she doesn’t say anything and scoffs as he walks away. You could at least have said thank you, he hisses the next day after he’s told the entire school that she has an STD.
She’s in ninth grade when she gets a kiss on the forehead, from her friend Amy. Only this kiss feels different. It’s not even a real one, but her whole body buzzes with excitement. She can feel the kiss right down to her fingertips. She feels it darkening her cheeks and drawing a laugh from her chest. This is what a real kiss feels like, she thinks giddily.
She’s only just passed tenth grade when she receives a kiss from her mother. It’s not the nice kind (she’s learned how to tell the difference by now). Her arms are stinging and red from where the book was bashed against her skin. One eye is dark from where the picture frame was thrown at her face. She’s alone in her room, trying to figure out exactly where it went wrong. Was it when Amy kissed her for real? Was it when they went on their first date? Or was it just now, when she confessed the whole thing to her mother, the one person she thought could never hate her? She’s just decided that it was the last one when her mom comes in. She’s calmed down now, she says. We’ll get you fixed, she whispers as she presses a burning kiss to her daughter’s forehead.
She’s in college when she kisses someone for the first time. Her name is Lily and she tastes like caramel and vanilla. She tastes like autumn, like being tucked under a thick blanket and held by someone you love. She tastes like new beginnings and starting over and finally being free. She tastes like wanting to never let go.
She’s all grown up now when she kisses their son for the first time. They brought him home this morning, each one promising to love him for the rest of his life. Lily has painted his room a soft blue with constellations along the tops of his walls. Her paintings are all over the house, sketches of forests and canals and the girl she married. But she thinks that this room is her new favorite.
She’s old now, and she’s seen many many kisses. She thinks about the kisses the boys gave to girls and she knows that’s alright. She thinks about the kisses that boys gave to boys and she knows that alright, too. She thinks about the boys and girls and those in between who don’t ever want to be kissed like that and she knows, yeah, that’s okay as well. She knows that anyone can kiss anyone they love. She knows that it doesn’t matter if they’re a boy or a girl or both or neither. She knows that she loves her Lily and that she wants everyone to feel safe enough to give a kiss someone they love.