Give me an hour to kiss you
— Sophie B Hawkins
A week ago you threw my father's RCMP Centennial mug into the empty fireplace, splattering tea across the hearth. I was sitting at the table immersed in a book on the art of batik, but the crash of history drew me to your side.
You were vibrating with emotion, your eyes dark and wounded. You've been having a rough time adjusting. It's lonely, and climate can be a far more insidious influence than we often realize. Still, I thought there must be something more to your action than the recent rain. "What is it?"
"What do I do? Huh? I got no money," you said, and I knew at once what you were referring to.
"It doesn't matter," I said, quickly. I regretted ever mentioning the date. I should have understood it would be problematic for you. I'm sorry.
You scowled at me. "Of course it matters. It matters to me."
"It's just a birthday, Ray. I have one every year. Next year you'll have work, an income. You can give me something then." You grunted in disgust and backed away from me, went to lean in the open doorway to watch water pour from the sky.
I should have known my line of reasoning would be anathema to you. You live in a world of symbolism and significance, and to skip a birthday present would be a sure sign of disaster. At the very least, you believe it would imply something about your level of commitment.
I came up behind you, uncertain whether you'd welcome contact in this mood, and recklessly slid my arms about your waist, pulling your resisting back against me, enjoying the newly-familiar heat of you. "All right, how about you give me my present in kisses."
"That's stupid," you said, but by now you were distracted by the sensations of my hands on your stomach and chest, by the strength of my embrace. You weren't fighting so hard.
"It's what I want," I murmured in your ear, meaning every word. "An hour. Give me an hour of kisses." Your body quivered at the words, and your head fell sideways revealing a long stretch of neck, and that was the end of that conversation.
You've been married. You understand the rhythm of relationships, the way sex can blend into the everyday. You almost take it for granted, in a way that I envy. Me, I'm constantly taken by surprise by your presence, your desire, the tight-rope tension you bring to every conversation, every touch. It's invigorating and exhausting; it delights and unnerves. I miss being alone, sometimes. Miss the selfishness of solitude. Miss how, without interruption, my thoughts would take me unexpected places. And yet, I have everything I want now: the Territories, you, my work. I'd have it no other way.
It's merely a matter of adjustment. An old Inuit woman once told me that every change, no matter how beneficial, has a cost: the move from igloo to houses, for example, has made families less self-sufficient. Now they're at the mercy of banks and landlords. Houses are far more practical, of course, and light and electric heating is appreciated. Few would dispute that the change is for the better. But there is always nostalgia, the loss of custom and skill.
I hope I'm expressing myself clearly. I hope you know I've got no regrets. I hope you know I love you.
I should say it. The words hang in the air, and I'm so certain that you know that to speak them seems clumsy and redundant. And yet, as with a formal gift-giving, I think they carry weight for you. They mean something beyond themselves.
I carry them like a gift I don't know how to give you.
My birthday. The rain patters on the roof, mingling with the South American music you've chosen. The cabin smells of wood smoke and roast beef, and the linseed oil you used to treat the kitchen counter. I'm drowsy from the day, yet alert to you.
You've shaven. You look nervous. You putter in the kitchen, making tea, tidying away clean dishes. You seem unwilling to settle. Perhaps you're afraid this present will disappoint me. Perhaps you're unwilling to give it.
There is something truly intimate about kissing. More intimate even than sex, during which we so often get caught up in our own physical sensations. I think you understand that. You understand.
I wait patiently—that, at least, is an area in which I've gained proficiency—and finally my patience pays off. You settle on the couch beside me, drain your wineglass and set it on the floor. "I'm sorry about your dad's mug," you say.
"It's not important." We aren't touching, and when you reach your long hand for mine, it's exciting, like the first time. Our fingers curve around each other gently and, like the first time, I don't know yet whether this advance is companionable or sexual.
"Fraser—" You turn a little so our knees are touching, and I'm suddenly filled with a joy so intense I'm afraid to let it show.
"Yes, Ray?" I try to smile at you, but there's no smile in me. Elated and solemn—it's a curious combination.
"Happy birthday," you say, and you put your hand to my cheek, stroke a thumb over my cheekbone, and pull my mouth to yours.
The kiss is brief. I stare at you, afterward, wanting more and more and more.
"Preliminaries," you say, giving me a small lopsided smile. "Okay, this is your first present. It's a new belt knife." You map out the imaginary blade with your fingers, the gesture atypically gauche, and I see how uncomfortable this is for you. How brave you are.
A material gift is complete. Given and done in a matter of seconds. This is a whole different net-full of salmon.
You run your hands down my arms to my elbows, anchoring us here, and your kiss is like the music—light, teasing and up-tempo. I curve against you, my lips curve against your mouth. It's intimate, like sharing a joke.
You end it slowly, and quirk an eyebrow at me.
Your lips are soft and wet, and I can't take my eyes off them as you move around and straddle my lap.
"Okay," you say again, bending down to kiss the side of my neck, "this is a canoe." And then, dear God, I feel your fingers firm against my cheekbones as your tongue licks into my mouth.
By the fourth kiss—a malamute pup—your nerves have abated. You fall sideways and take me with you, until we're stretched out along the couch. This kiss is heavy, hot and sultry, our bodies loosely entwined. As a rule, you're only this relaxed when we're post coital, so this kiss truly is a gift. A chance to drape languorously together, with a low simmer of desire below the surface. My mind falls prey to the physical sensations, so I'm dazed when you pull back and murmur in my ear. There's a lag before the words have meaning.
"This okay?" you're asking. "This what you wanted?"
I can only nod, my eyes heavy, my hand in your hair. This is the moment to declare myself, but I'm lost to words, lost to everything but you.
Your arms tighten. "Holiday in Fiji," you say, seriously. "Since this isn't costing me anything, I thought I might as well go to town." I close my eyes in anticipation, and I'm not disappointed.
I open under you, and our lips meet, and my world darkens and expands. I think I'm drunk on you. I have to say it. You kiss across my cheek and down my neck, and I speak into your ear: I love you.
You still. A single breath huffs against my skin, and then you lean over me, your eyes dark. "Sort of figured," you say dryly. But then you smile, so beautiful I can't breathe, and when you come back to kiss me, everything has changed, has deepened and brightened. I wonder how I could have been so foolish, not to give you this sooner.
My blood heats. You shift, your thigh hard against me, and I'm hooked sharply by lust. My breath stutters and hitches. I try to damp it down, because this is not the game, not the gift. We aren't here for sex. But I can't help it, I can't stop my fingers from tucking into your clothes, I can't stop my heartbeat from quickening. I can't help wanting you.
Your kisses grow wilder in response. You press me against the back of the couch, angling your hip so it presses against my groin. I moan. You rock your lean body against me and I can't help it, I can't help it, I want you.
"Fraser," you say, moving against me, your mouth on my cheek, my jaw.
I grunt a reply. It's all I can do.
You glance up, over my head, toward the mantel, and then kiss me quick and hard. "Eighteen minutes," you say. Your voice is rough and low, and you want me, too. I can feel it in every tense line of you. "You wanna save the other forty-two minutes for later?"
I'm flushed with pleasure. Flushed and alive. "Yeah," I manage. "For another rainy day."
Love Sonnet XVII
by Pablo Neruda
I do not love you as if you were a salt rose, or topaz
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
So I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.