Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Six Rules of Kissing

Have you ever heard of the six rules of kissing? Traci, my old college roommate, made them up.

1) If you want to be kissed, then you kiss him on the cheek.

2) Close your eyes.

3) Tilt your head.

4) Do something with your hands.

5) Lean forward.

6) If he opens his mouth, then you open yours or else you'll end up with
his tongue up your nose.

I wish I could say that the rules had been passed down from "generation to generation," but since I can't, I guess I'll have to tell you that for a girl who was as inexperienced as a newborn, they came in pretty handy for me, although at the time I didn't realize it.

John and I had been going steady for almost a month. Actually, it was two days before our one month anniversary. We had been friends for a while before we started dating and had now been dating long enough that this guy knew about my past. He knew about my first kiss. Although, in the deep recesses of my mind, I try not to consider it a kiss. I alway made the excuse that if you didn't really enjoy it, then it shouldn't be considered. That first kiss for me, has come to be known as "The Grand Canyon of Dry Lips." I was thirteen when it happened and to this day, it has to be one of the most terrifying experiences of my whole life. The "Grand Canyon" guy really can't be blamed for the terror, though. The lips yes, the terror no. That was all my father's doing. When he found out about the kiss, I knew that this meant certain death for me. My father went off the deep end. He was sure that I was going to end up being pregnant by the time I was sixteen. His lecture scared me so badly that I hadn't let a guy near my lips in almost six years.

This particular night, December 5th, was what you could call "unusual." John and I had gone to see "Home Alone 2." As we left the theater to go out to my car, it started to rain. We ran through the movie theatre parking lot over to my car and climbed in. As we left the parking lot, I could hear the rain pounding on the roof of my car like a bongo drum. When we got to the corner of Airway Blvd. and Gateway West Blvd., John noticed that there was a car that had stalled in the middle of the road.

"Marie, drive over to the gas station over there and wait for me." He was pointed over to the gas station on the northeast corner of the intersection.

John ran over to the stalled vehicle and helped the two ladies push their car over to the gas station. As soon as he was done, he ran back to my car. He climbed inside, his overcoat was dripping wet. He looked so cute as the rain drops glided down his face.

We got onto the freeway and headed east toward Santa Teresa where a Christmas party was going to be held. On the way to the party, I kept having this impression that I should reward his heroic deed with a kiss on the cheek.

"Marie?" John blurted out.


"You know, I was just thinking, when you and I kiss for the first time. . . You're going to think this sounds strange, but I'm going to make sure that I have plenty of Carmex on. I wouldn't want you to remember me as another "Grand Canyon."

I tried to laugh off the comment, but inside my stomach started doing belly flops.

The rest of the way to our friend, David Arroyo's house went smoothly. We joked and laughed and had a good time. The party, itself, was great until after dinner when David announced that he was quitting his position. David was a good friend of ours and had been for a very long time. All the joy of the night now turned to tears. On that sad note, David decided to end the party. So, John and I left. I was still crying when we got into my car. John tried to comfort me, but the more I cried the more my frustrations came out. I couldn't hold back any longer.

At that moment, I wasn't just crying because David was leaving but also because of John. John would soon be leaving for two years to serve a mission for our church. He and I had become so close and I knew that in February our time would be over. The more I cried, the more helpless I felt.

I wanted John to say something, but he just looked at me with a blank stare. Finally, he did the only thing he could do. He held me in his arms. For a moment I felt safe; for a while I knew things were going to be okay. I started to wipe away my tears and I looked up at him and smiled. I looked to his smile for comfort. I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. He looked at me again and for a moment, he didn't know what to say.

"What was that for?" He said in complete shock. We had been really "good" friends for several months and it was only a few weeks before that we had even started holding hands. A kiss? Well, that was something I had never done that before.

"Oh, that was for helping those ladies out earlier this evening. I knew you deserved some kind of reward and this was the best I could come up with on such short notice. I just knew that I wasn't going to let them kiss you."

I sat back in my seat and all of a sudden I felt the world around me start to move in slow motion. John's eyes moved from starring at me to a little compartment under the cigarette lighter. I looked down and watched his hand reach for something. He pulled out a little container no wider than a quarter. It had a yellow top and a white bottom. All of a sudden, I knew. I knew what was about to happen.

"Should I stop it? Did I really want to stop it? Oh what were those six rules that Traci made up? Oh how come at the most crucial times in my life, my mind goes blank? Oh! How come I couldn't remember?" I kept talking to myself for what seemed like hours.

I watched him unscrew the lid and put his finger inside it. I watched him pull it back out and spread something glossy over his lips. I watched the bottle get screwed back on and get put back under the lighter. I did the only thing I could do, I closed my eyes.

"How do you feel?" He asked as I finally gained enough courage to open my eyes again.

"Actually, I think I kissed your two front teeth," I replied as it was the only thing I could think of to say.

"Well, maybe we should try it again."

I remember how awful I felt after I kissed "Grand Canyon" for the first and only time. It was almost as if I had lost my virginity. All I could do was cry, but here I was now, sitting in a car with the man I loved and this time all I could do was laugh. It wasn't one of those witch's cackles or high pitched laughs, it was the laugh of relief. It was the most nervous laugh I ever felt in my life. John probably thought I sounded like a tea kettle ready for pouring. I couldn't stop myself. We had experienced such a special moment and here I was laughing. Not only was I laughing, but I could feel my stomach girgling. John looked at me and asked if I was okay. I tried to explain to him that I was. The more I tried to explain, though, the more my stomach started to rumble. In an instant, I looked over at him and then turned my head. I felt my dinner go up from my stomach to my throat in a matter of seconds. Thankfully, it stopped right there.

"Are you okay?" John asked again trying to make sense of the situation.

As my stomach calmed back down, I told him things were just fine. Can you believe it? The most important moment in my life up to now and here I was, almost tossing my cookies.

We ended up kissing three more times that night. Each one was definitely better than the first. It wasn't until the next morning, daydreaming about the night before that I realized Traci was right. If I wanted to be kissed, I was going to have to make the first move. Thank Heavens, I didn't have to use rule number six. Who knows what would have happened then?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

She Needed Time Alone

This story is dedicated to Gina, one of the bravest women I know.

The steam on the mirror made it impossible for her to see her own reflection. That was something she could take comfort in. Her own face was the last thing she wanted to look at. She knew her mascara would be running down her face and that she'd look a wreck. She was happy for the steam. She leaned over and put her elbows on the counter. Her hands covered her face and then made their way through the strands of her hair. She stood up and rubbed her index finger under her nose. Why? Lost in thought, she stood there for a second, barely breathing.

She undressed and stepped into the shower. Why? Why now? The water began to land on her shoulders. She tilted her head up so the water could hit her straight on. She turned the dial on the shower head so that it changed from the standard setting to massage. Looking down at the shower floor, she let the water work its magic on her neck. She closed her eyes trying to force herself to enjoy the massage, but it was no use. Numbness had taken over everything but the throbbing ache in her chest. The harder the water fell, the more tears came down. She tried to grip the tiles on the wall for support, but her fingers simply slid down them. Suddenly, the ache in her heart made its way to her throat. She heard herself cry. She was scared someone would hear but she couldn't stop herself. Her inward pain turned into an outward pleading and she prayed that the pain would disappear.

She wanted to wake up from this moment. The moment that she always dreaded in the back of her mind. Some how she'd always been preparing for it, but never willing herself to believe that it would ever really happen. She had loved him and now he was gone. What could I have done different? She tried not to think about it. These things happen, she rationalized. She tried to make herself believe that it was not her fault. These things happen, but not to me. . .not to us.

Over the years, love and life had changed each of them, but could she get over this? Did she want to get over this? Suddenly, she felt like the pain in her chest was all she had left to hold. It hurt, but still it was the one emotion she could feel. She balled up her fist and slammed it sideways on the shower wall. Pain! Physical Pain. The heartache in her chest, now began to be overshadowed by the pain in her hand. The emotional numbness that had encircled the rest of her body now began to disappear and again, she started to feel like she was really alive. She leaned on the wall and held her right fist with her unbroken hand. She let the tears fall freely now. A broken bone was a good excuse to cry. Crying for. . . She had to be strong for that.

With a lot of pain and effort, she clumsily turned off the shower and put on her bathrobe. She tried to put her hair up in a towel, but couldn't manage it. Without thinking, she wiped the mirror off with the towel and caught a glimpse of her eyes. For the first time that afternoon, she saw how puffy and red they were. They didn't even look like her own. Quickly, she realized the eyes she was looking at weren't her own at all. She turned around quickly to find that her husband was standing in the doorway.

"Sweetheart. I got here as soon as I got your message."

He pulled her close and she let herself get lost in his embrace. They stood there together holding and crying with one another.

"Why did this. . .," she tried to say the words but the pain was too much.

Deep in his soul, he struggled for an answer himself. He was hurting as much as she was and he felt like he was letting her down by crying in front of her.

"I wish I knew. I wish I could erase this. . ." He couldn't finish the thought.

"I'm sorry I couldn't give you. . . I hope that you're not mad at me." She had been so afraid to bring up what she was so afraid to ask.

"Sweetheart." He lifted her chin. "I don't ever want you to think that. I don't ever want you to say that. This is not your fault. Our ba. . ." He stopped talking as tears filled his eyes again. "Our baby. His little body just wasn't ready. Even though we never got to hold him." He wanted to say this without crying but it was so hard. "He was still ours. He was. . he is part of us. Have you ever thought these little spirits, that our little guy was so good that he didn't have to go this through this test? This test we call life. Maybe all he needed was to come as far as he did and know that his mom and dad loved him."

She buried her head in his chest again and she felt the pain and anger drain out of her. It was replaced with a warmth that comforted. She hoped he was right. She was counting on him being right. His hope and faith was the only thing that was helping her stay on her feet.

He walked her over to the bed and helped her lay down.

"Is there anything I can get you?" He said needing something to occupy himself.

"Some ice for my hand." She held up the swollen hand and showed it to him.

"Tried making a hole in the wall, huh?"

"Something like that."

He gently raised her hand, looked it over and kissed it.

"I'll be right back." He ran out the door.

She laid there on the bed and closed her eyes. Within a few minutes, she found herself playing on a playground with her husband and a little brown haired boy. The little boy smiled and gave her a hug.

"Love Mama."

"Mama loves you too." She knew he was okay and some how they wouldn't be apart for long.

Friday, January 4, 2008

1971 -- Chapter 4: The Aisle (Final Draft)


"Sam, I think it's up here."

Angela and Samantha made their way up to the attic. Angela was the first one to the top of the stairs. She ran her hand through a cobweb that was in her way.

"I can tell Tony hasn't been up here in a while." Angela said trying to shake a web off her hand. Since Tony started teaching at Fairfield College in the fall of 1993, the attic and the house in general had taken a backseat to Tony's other responsibilities. "He's going to be furious when he finds out the temp didn't make it up here again."

"How many has that been now?"



"Oh, at least one or two a month for the last fifteen years. You do the math."

"Why am I not surprised? I just thought he'd have loosened up by now."

"You know your father." Angela tried to push some of the boxes out of the way, "It must be over here in the corner."

"I can't believe that you kept some of Jonathan's old baby clothes." Samantha rubbed her very pregnant belly. She was eight months along, again and looked like she would pop at any minute.

"I guess I thought I'd be needing them again some day. I would have thought about them sooner, if you hadn't had so many daughters. I'm sure Hank is happy to finally be having a boy."

"People think we're nuts. Sometimes I think we're nuts, but I was the one who told him we'd keep trying 'till we had a boy. I just didn't think it would take six tries."

They continued walking around, moving boxes until Angela found the large dusty trunk hidden in the corner.

"Stand back." Angela grabbed hold of one of the leather handles and pulled with all her might. The trunk didn't move.

"Here, let me try." Sam took the handle from Angela and pull the trunk out of the corner with a simple tug.

"Thanks. Thanks a lot." Angela said rolling her eyes.

Angela knelt down besides the heavy wooden truck. She lifted the lid and a rush of memories seemed to escape. At the top of the pile of keepsakes were several little outfits that once belonged to Jonathan.

"How cute!" Both of them giggled as each outfit was pulled out.

Sam paused for a second while she watched Angela sort through the baby clothes.


"Yes, sweetheart." She said not really paying attention.

"Do you ever wish you'd had more children?"

Angela looked up and sweetly cupped Sam's cheek. For a moment, Sam thought Angela was going to cry, but instead a broad smile appeared. "I never told you this before, but I always knew that I would have a son and a daughter. Silly me, I had always pictured my little girl in diapers and carrying a baby doll. Who would have guessed she would arrive at my doorstep as a preteen tomboy?"

"Thanks Angela." They embraced as Sam wiped a tear from her cheek.

"I mean, I wish your father and I could have had a baby together, but getting the chance to help raise you was more than a dream come true. Besides, I get my fair share of baby dolls and diapers now. I'm just happy I get to share your children with you. Your dad is so excited about "Little Hank."

"Hey, we haven't decided that's his name for sure."

"I know, it just sounds so cute. So let's see what else we've got in here." Angela grabbed a package tossed it aside.

"What's that?" Sam said grabbing the package.

"Something that needs to get burned."

"Hey come on Angela," she said as she tore open the tissue paper covered package and found the dress Angela wore at her wedding to Michael. "This is something that's part of your history."

"I know, but somethings are better left forgotten."

Tossing the dress aside, Sam reached in and continued pulling things out of the trunk. She laid them in a pile on the floor. Angela began sorting through them and then stopped. She reached down and pulled a well worn red sweat shirt from the pile. She pulled it close to her face and gave it a good squeeze.

"Oh Angela, what the heck is that?" Sam said bring Angela back to reality.

"Oh this? It's just a reminder of my old college days. I thought I lost this years ago." The importance of the newly discovered treasure was written all over Angela's face.

"I didn't know you were a Red Sox fan?" Sam said realizing what Angela was holding.

"I'm not. Just a fan of a guy who almost made the team."

"Looks to me like you were more than a fan." Sam said teasing.

"Cut it out."

"Angela, your blushing."

"Am I?"

"So tell me! What happened?"

"You're not going to believe this. Most days I don't believe it ever happened myself."

"Let me be the judge of that."

"Alright, alright. One day, when Michael and I were dating, we had a fight. I had had enough of him and school. I decided to pack up my stuff and take a bus home. Funny thing was.." She said with giggle. "I never got on the bus. This guy was there." She said holding out the sweat shirt as if it were the guy.

"Oh really? And..."

"There really isn't much to say. I had been walking in the rain to get to the station. I was soaked through. And well, this guy seemed to appear out of nowhere and he put this sweat shirt around me to warm me up. We talked, we drank about six cups of cocoa and had a kiss."

"A kiss!?! So what happened?"

"Well the kiss was wonderful, but it was weird." She paused. "Funny, that was the word he and I both used that night. I can't believe how long it's been since I thought about this. Have you ever felt so good one moment and totally sad the next?"

"I don't. . ."

"He and I both felt the chemistry. Boy, did we feel the chemistry. I don't know how to explain it. We just felt like it wasn't completely right. There was something there, but the timing just felt completely off. Does that make any sense?"


"I don't know how. . . He said so many things that night that comforted me. Things I needed to hear, things that helped me get through the hardest times of my life. The times until I met Tony."

"Whatever happened to the guy?"

"I don't know. I don't even know his name."

"You don't know his name? Didn't you ask? Why not?"

"I don't know. I felt like I knew him. It just never came up."

"Did you ever try to find him?"

"I wanted to, but that night after I got back to the dorm, Michael was waiting for me. I guess the rest, you can say, 'is history.' Once, I thought I saw him, though."

"The guy?"



"When your father came to interview for the housekeeper job."

"You mean you thought this guy was Dad?"

"For an instant, I did."

"Did you ever ask him?"

"Of course, not. What am I going to say? 'Hey, did you ever share a kiss with a girl you'd only known for a couple of hours in front of a bus station on your way from Boston to New York back in the 70's?' He'd think I'm a little off my rocker."

"What's the worst he can say? No? You ought to ask him. I mean, how wonderful it would be, if you guys really had known it each other before. I mean, you really could have been my mother."

"If he is the guy, and that's still up for debate, there are some very good reasons why were weren't meant to be together yet."

"Like what?" Sam said waiting to see what Angela could come up with.

"Honestly, there were a lot of things. Well, for one I think Marie needed to have the chance to be a mother. You wouldn't have been the woman you are without her." Angela tenderly reached over and brushed her fingers down Sam's cheek. "And I. . .I guess I needed to know for myself that I could live without Michael. I just had to divorce him to do it."

"Angela, come on. You know we have to ask him." Sam said putting her arm around her.

"I've thought about it through the years, but I don't know. I guess I thought if he was the guy something would have sparked his memory by now."

Sam gazed up at Angela with a devilish grin.

"What are you thinking, Sam?" Angela knew by the look in Sam's eyes that she was in trouble. "Sam. . ."

"Well, I was thinking. If it is him, I have an idea that might spark his memory. What if we. . ."

A few days later. . .

"Come on Samantha. We've been in the car for a long time. Don't you think you'd better tell me where we're going?" Tony'd been blindfolded for about forty-five minutes."

"Come on Da, it'd take all the fun out it. Besides, we're almost there."

Sam pulled the car over in front of an old dinner and led him to a table inside. She motioned to the waitress who walked over to the bathroom door and knocked on it.

"Where are we, Sam?" He said as she pulled off the blindfold.

It took a moment for his eyes to adjust. He found himself sitting at a booth with two cups of cocoa in front of him with a can of whipped cream sitting near by.

"What the. . ."

"Bye, Dad. I'll see you later." Sam walked out the side door.

"But Sam, how am I..." As the door closed behind Sam, a reflection in the glass came into focus.

"Maddone a'mi . . " His jaw dropped as he watched a girl in a red sweat shirt walk towards him. The diner, the girl, the sweat shirt; all of it hit him in the face like baseball bat. "No, deja vu." As she walked closer to him, he realized the girl in the red sweat shirt was Angela, his Angela. Her hair was a lot shorter and blonder than the girl he remembered. The sweat shirt was faded and well worn at the cuffs. She still looked great in the jeans and the blouse fit her better than ever.

"May I have a seat?" she said boldly.

She leaned toward the booth to sit down, but Tony rushed to his feet. He grabbed her by the waist and kissed her. Right there in the middle of the aisle, he kissed her just as he had in the bus station's parking lot all those years before. Just like the last time, it wasn't gentle. It wasn't even neat. It was filled with all the passion, the regret, the love and devotion of the past. This time the peace was there. Only this time it was followed by happiness. The confusion of the thirty-seven year old kiss was gone and all that followed was joy.

As they stopped kissing long enough to take a breath, Tony took a minute to gaze into her eyes.

"So, it took me a couple of smacks," he joked.

"Yeah, just a few. I'm glad to meet you, Tony." She leaned in and kissed him again.

A waitress walked up behind them with a pot of cocoa in her hand. "Huh, hum! Do you two need any refills?" After a few moments passed with no answer, the waitress dropped off the ticket, and left to serve another table.

"So, can I refill your cups?" She said to the couple sitting a few tables down.

"No, Shirley," said the young Italian man reading her name tag. "I think we're good." He was sitting at the table with a very attractive young blonde. "We'll be leaving soon." He said as he left fifteen dollars on the table.

"Thanks," Shirley said taking the cash with a smile.

The End

(Thanks for reading. "If you have any pity in your soul" tell me you like my story. "You can always say no later." Please leave your review on the way out.)

Thanks for the great line: Phil Doran, Bob Resenfarb and Danny Kallis