The kiss list

Original photo by Anna Berti, Edited by Valentina Bojanini
Original photo by Anna Berti, Edited by Valentina Bojanini

My first kiss was a mess. It had all the hallmarks of a first kiss — the near miss, the awkward angle, the realization of how strange it is to put your mouth on another person’s mouth and then it was over. My second first kiss happened a couple of days into my freshman year of college. The third was in the stairwell of my freshman dorm. The fourth is blurry. Five and six happened the same night, and that’s when I decided to make a list.

It was Halloween. I threw on some fake eyelashes and a witch hat and went out into the world with 20 of my closest friends. We found a Halloween party in Midtown and decided for some strange reason that this was how we wanted to spend our night. We split like a search party in the crowd — the ritual our generation has become known for. Get drunk, flirt, hook up, never speak again. Number five was dressed as Caesar. He looked like an off-brand Justin Timberlake and said he was a “DJ.” He kissed me and friend-requested himself on my phone. Eventually I got bored and walked away.

Number six happened on my walk to the pizza place that same night when a young-looking Brit stopped me and said, “Excuse me, my name’s Nick, will you be my girlfriend?” I was completely caught off guard. “No…?”  I said and assumed that was the end of our conversation. But it wasn’t. “Well I’ll go away if you give me a kiss,” and in a move that still surprises me today, I kissed him.

The next day, as I woke up with the world spinning and a pounding headache, I pieced together my night. To me, one drunken make out in a night was fine, but two seemed a little excessive. I don’t know what exactly I thought was going to happen because of it, but I felt like I had broken some cardinal rule: Thou shalt not make out with two people in one night. I needed to confess my sins so I reached for my phone and opened a new note: “Halloween: Caesar, British Nick.”  Writing it down gave me back the control I’d lost in my drunken haze. I decided to own the moment and embrace it.

And then I went all the way back to the beginning and wrote down every other first kiss. It seemed wrong to give two random people so much importance on a note by themselves. Since that night, it has become a running list.

For a while I tried to turn my list into something more meaningful. I divided the names into categories: important, not that important, irrelevant. Later, I tried to give details — who they were, how I met them, what happened later. But it was too much. It didn’t quite matter who they were or what they mean to me now, they just all had something in common. A fleeting moment of connection, and a kiss.

Some of them were definitely mistakes, only two I wish I could take back, but a few are people who have changed the way I see love. The latter group is why I haven’t deleted my list. Seeing their names is like the tether that connects me to them. They hit me with a shock to my nervous system reminding me of how raw and open I was with them and how I haven’t been quite the same since.

As a self-proclaimed commitment-phobe, I constantly find myself trying to fight against the vulnerability of attachment. It scares me. But in some small way, acknowledging the moments I shared with these people helps me face my fears. It gives me back the power to feel when the pull of denial is so strong.

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