le premier baiser

There was a time in my life when all I wanted to do was kiss Farah Patil. I had long contemplated the grave business that was my first kiss, and had come to the conclusion that ten was too old to be a kiss virgin. Even after factoring in the fact that it was still around that time when girls and boys shared a mutual terror of each other (suddenly the differences in physical construction were very obvious) I was still at least two years behind schedule.

At the tender age of eight, I had experienced the female form in its unadorned majesty, but I now knew that that particular experience did not count. I had gone with Melissa Kamande to the darkened shed that functioned as woodshed and prospective garage (in case the parents somehow acquired a locomotive) and emerged five minutes later with glowing eyes and a new secret that I would have taken with me to the grave. Melissa was the know-all child who lived right next to us, and on that memorable day, she had lifted her dress and indicated-by way of twinkling eyes- that I should go ahead and look at just how different we were. I returned the favour, but somehow I don’t think the experience was as profound for her. And for six blissful months, I had gone around believing that I had had sex.

It was thus that I missed what may have been my best opportunity to ‘do a kiss’ with someone.

Age ten brought with it a fresh onslaught of curiosity, and a burning desire to familiarize myself with the sophisticated art that was kissing. I don’t remember what gave me the idea; it may have been one of the supposedly ‘adult’ programs our parents expressly forbade us from seeing but which we saw anyway, or it may have been one of the books stolen from the adult section of the library and read from cover to cover in the transient privacy of the school latrines. All I remember is that one day Erick Kimani was telling anyone who would listen-and a lot of us did, with open mouths-that he had just ‘done a kiss’ with a girl two years ahead of us, and it had been phenomenal.

Naturally, we talked of nothing else for weeks after that, and everyone wanted to experience it for themselves. Young Erick was propelled to instant stardom. His name was whispered throughout the school with awed fascination and grudging respect. I was not any different; the idea had always been floating around in the recesses of my mind, so when prompted it quickly resurfaced with the proverbial seven heads.  And so I set out to add my name to the hall of fame that so far had only one name, Erick’s. That was when the planning began.

First of all, it could not just be anyone. A first kiss was no laughing matter. It was an issue of such far-reaching consequences and significance that my young mind could not plumb how children were expected to deal with that kind of pressure. My memory is a tad hazy on the exact statistics that went with my research and selection process, but I finally decided that I wanted my first kiss to be with Farah Patil, the gorgeous girl who sat three rows from me in class. And I made this choice for several reasons, the least of them being that she was Hindu (Asian? Indian?), and I wanted to do it with someone as close as possible to American- they of the legendary kissing skills. I had also nursed a soft spot for her for as long as I could remember.

The rest of the plan was relatively straight forward. Track her down. Fall to your knees. Beg for a kiss to the point within an inch of your life. And plan B was even simpler; steal a kiss and run as fast as is humanly possible.

But it was at least a month before I found myself in the same setting with Farah, and the chance meeting was so nerve-wrecking that I almost experienced a return of my pant-wetting days. There are things, however, that one never forgets, and for me, one will always be that mental picture of her; ten years old and already more graceful than anything I had ever seen. I obsessed after her for the rest of the day, until I finally admitted that my plan was neither plausible nor satisfactory. It was impossible to imagine kissing Farah Patil, and on the off-chance that I somehow pulled it off, I was wary of what it would do to the turbulent emotions racing through me.

It was around that time that Erick the great struck again.

The boy widely regarded as the school’s leading expert on girls was now astonishing us with even more stories of his exploits. The other day, after P.E, he had somehow succeeded in poking one of the tomatoes on Kathy’s chest, and it felt great. In fact it was so great that he managed to convince her to let him look at them (and they looked great). And then, just yesterday, he had cornered a blushing Farah Patil and cajoled a kiss out of her.

Utter heartbreak. At such a young age, too. I recall feeling enraged and betrayed. The idiot had stolen both my plan and my first kiss. It was unacceptable. I was agitated beyond words, but from my haze sprouted the very first seeds of doubt. I did not boast any knowledge of Farah Patil, and even then I was not naïve enough to claim an understanding of the workings of the female mind. But I was fairly certain she was not that outgoing. What if he was lying? Could he be lying? What was it that compelled us to believe him exactly?

My sixth sense turned out to be right. Later that week, I found myself wedged between Farah and two of her stubby friends on the bus ride home. It was a strange coincidence, but at the moment I was oscillating between feelings of betrayal and the remnants of annoyance. So, naturally, I ignored her completely, until suddenly she was crying, and my attention snapped instantly back to her. My anxiety vanished, leaving only concern. I asked her what the problem was, and my voice was strangely composed. And after a great deal of coaxing, she finally told me that all the girls in school were making fun of her for ‘doing a kiss’ with Erick Kimani, an action she had no recollection of.

Ah, sweet jubilation. So the deplorable boy had lied. Doing a poor job of masking my ecstasy, I calmed Farah down. I told her that Erick was a miserable toad with absolutely no sense of dignity, and that no one really believed him. I left out the fact that to the other boys Erick was something of a demigod. I gushed that she was a lovely girl, and anyone with eyes could see that she was the most kissable girl in school, which was why those without any illusions of being with her would resort to lies. In retrospect, I was quite the talker back then.

There was a time in my life when all I wanted to do was kiss Farah Patil. I dreamed of it for days and made increasingly fanciful plans on how to do it. Yet I was completely unprepared for it when it happened. I suppose I had no expect that it would happen in a moving bus full of chattering children who would go on to make fun of me for the rest of my life. But it did. For some reason Farah Patil, being of sound mind and natural charms, decided that she wanted to ‘do a kiss’ with me too.

I have since read countless books and watched several depictions of kissing. So much has been said about it, and even more about first kisses. Yet, despite my unyielding respect for Shakespeare and his peers, I cannot seem to agree with them on the subject. Because my first kiss was a sloppy, messy affair that could not and did not live up to the lofty expectations I had of it.

It was wet and uncontrolled; she bumped my nose twice and blinked severally before deciding to close her eyes; then she licked her lips and planted them on mine. It was short and curious; she moved her lips gently up, then down, then effected a quick parting, deposited a substantial amount of saliva on most of my lips and chin, and pulled away, leaving me more curious than I had been before. But mostly, it was earnest; it was a mutual experience between two people who knew nothing of the act to make it special but appreciated the thought behind it anyway.

There was a time in my life when all I wanted was a kiss. I have spent the rest of my life realizing that life is in the business of giving people lemons, and that when it does, it is essential to ignore the feeling of anti-climax and find the beauty in each moment, good or bad.


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