“First kiss ever I took
Like a page from a romance book
The sky opened and the earth shook
Down on Copperline” — James Taylor
“Why are you so angry?” He asks after he stands me up for perhaps the twentieth consecutive time. On the days when he doesn’t absent himself, it is merely due to the convenience of my appearance, not because he has affirmatively decided I am valuable enough to desire my presence.
After my first first kiss, I have forgotten most other first kisses. I don’t know why. Something about the anticipation of a first kiss always seems so much more memorable that the actual kiss; the urgency of someone else’s need surfacing and stretching itself toward me, literally facing me head-on. I forget the act that is so intimate, disconnect from this thing that should mean something. The start of something that might have meaning, maybe. It’s overwhelming to remember beginnings. And like most things that are uncomfortable, I choose to forget that which I see no use in remembering.
So, first kisses, I can’t know about why they are so special – I can’t remember any of them. But, I’ve always had this eerie ability to feel endings; I know last kisses, feel Last Kisses. Last Kisses aren’t always final kisses, but they happen when I know something has ended, or is about to change form forever. I remember that kiss, the Last Kiss, even when other kisses follow it. I know how to taste change.
Yet, my sensors failed here, with him. So confident was I that my warning signals had never been wrong, I leapt heartily and whole-heartedly into a fiasco with a person who had so little regard for my person, I still think my irrelevance still echoes hollowly in places so dark, I assumed there had to be love there. His complete disinterest in feelings in general and in my feelings in particular led me to an erroneous conclusion I believed to be inevitable: I loved him, so he must love me. I believed in the trick that he made me believe – that I was being impatient, rushing instead of letting it unfold. Except, moment by moment, month by month, the gap between his intentions (disingenuous at best; evil at worst) and my feelings (uncontrollable at best; naive at worst) grew and eroded, a giant chasm of space that could not be reconciled or excused. I wish I could say a fundamental miscommunication had arisen, but that would be a lie. He quite honestly stated more than once that he never had any feelings whatsoever, couldn’t feel deeply, and would manipulate me back to a comfortable gray area where he was not required to commit to any feeling at all.
“You were just one of those girls I knew I didn’t have to do anything,” he said once, to hurt me. I wanted to be shocked and offended, but in the end, the facts were true. I didn’t make him do anything. “You just needed a little attention and that was enough for you.” It wasn’t enough, but I had already decided to love him. I loved him, so that he could use me. The irony, of course, is that I had been a non-committal serial monogamist for a decade. I had never been one of “those girls.” Even if I had been, I had never authorized this transaction that violated my emotional sanctuary – my feelings about love had never before been wrong. Had never. I could not assert proudly again that everyone I had loved had loved me back.
I understood, suddenly, why everyone else was so skeptical of love, why they chose a plan instead of a man, why they used logic instead of feelings. I was old to learn this lesson, and I was bitter that I had to learn it at all. He did not love me, and no matter how much I loved him, or tried to show him love, he would not love me. He did not love me. Lesson learned: Not everyone we love, loves us. How could I not have known this? How could I fooled myself into believing it would never happen to me?
I wish I could say I gradually saw it, but I did not. It was sudden, here one second, gone the next.
Only my love lingered, unwelcome and hot.
I was angry, and I stayed angered. It was a protection of sorts; it kept me distant. I wanted to leave, but there was no where to go. I couldn’t escape confusion in my own head and disloyalty in my own heart – I loved him, still, despite my desperation for indifference.
I felt the last kiss coming, but I thought maybe it would be significant, a climax or an apotheosis. Instead, he bummed a cigarette in a parking lot and I watched him inhale and exhale as he reverted to his own self-centered version of mindless conversation. All topics could fall under the heading: “Important Things I Need You to Do to Help Me.” He never did any of the things he talked about, but I think he had learned how much I liked to feel useful and it was a neat trick to keep me engaged. I was tired this time. I didn’t want to be useful anymore. I wanted to be absent. I sighed and said goodbye.
As I inched away, he grabbed me with two arms, and without any thought or planning, he wrapped himself around me. He reached up and held the back of my head, never loosening the embrace, and for five full seconds, kissed me firmly on the mouth. I kissed him back, and in that moment, I saw that it wasn’t passionate, but perfunctory. I thought back to every kiss, and realized he had never kissed me passionately, probably because he felt no heat for me, had no need of my heart. But in that moment, he hissed into my ear: “I missed you.” Maybe he knew I was trying to forget him. Maybe he could see that I couldn’t continue with only my good intentions alone. Maybe he could see I was becoming bored and uncomfortable and I wanted to forget him and remember instead how to be lost. No one knows what happens inside the head of a selfish man.
What I know is: that was our Last Kiss, the moment when I wanted to change and knew that I would.
“Why are you so angry? What did I do?” He asked, amused, feigning like he cared if I left, pretending it mattered at all. Actually, he would ask often in the months that stretched ahead, why I was angry, when I was too weak and too lonely to resist his need for attention without any affection. When I would beg him, but he would deny me. When he would find love everywhere else but with me.
So now, here, a year later, with the same, exact story with the same, exact man. I tell him: I am angry because you will not love me and you will not release me. I tell him: I am angry because of your constant disrespect, because you are no friend, but foe. I tell him…but I do not. I am angry because I do not tell him.
I know now: I must run.