A Thousand Kisses

Your first kiss with the love of your life, how do you know what that is? Well, sometimes you’re lucky. Me, when that fox grabbed my cheekruffs and pulled me to his muzzle, when I felt his firm paws, his whiskers, his warm tongue against my teeth, I said to myself, this is special, this I will remember.

You don’t always remember the first, despite what the romance novels tell you. You’ll probably have a lot of first kisses, some in high school, some in college, some after that. Your first kiss, that you remember. Kind of like the way you remember the 4th grade school play you were in. Maybe you did really well in it. Probably you didn’t.

My first kiss was ten years ago; my first kiss with another boy, five. My first kiss with the fox I will spend the rest of my life with: two. I can still see the clouds creeping along the sky, the glow of the moon just emerging from behind them. I can smell the salt from the water and the unique smell of him, and I remember burning the association into my brain: this smell, these paws, this tongue is Morgan. I can feel the cool breeze from the Bay on my fur, and I remember wrapping my tail around my leg to keep it warm.

That was number one. We went on a date the following week. Kiss number two was outside his apartment. It was still chilly, but mostly the smells were from the alley. That’s where he called me a handsome coyote and put his paws on my butt.

Number three was the following week, outside my apartment. It smelled like the alley where the grocery store dumpsters are, and it was raining, and I put my hands on his butt. And it went on a long time.

Kisses number four, five, six, seven, and eight were inside my apartment.

Kisses nine and ten were the following morning.

I’m only counting real honest-to-goodness lip-mashing tongue-twirling kisses here. Pecks on the cheek, nah. And after the first ten, I didn’t really keep count all that much. But you figure one date a week for six months, about five kisses a date, right? So that’s another hundred-thirty. And up at the ski resort, well, probably there were about thirty that weekend alone.

There are big ones I remember. On his couch, with the TV going, his words ‘come live with me’ hanging in the air, my answer in the kiss. Standing on top of the Space Needle just before it closed, the observation deck almost deserted, when I grabbed him and kissed him against the backdrop of the stars and city lights. In the hallway of my parents’ house, fierce and unyielding, stopping my tears with love.

There are small ones, too. Meeting me at the door wearing nothing but a smile when I got home from work, one day for no reason. Waking up one morning when the light was just coming in behind his ears and the soft glow warmed everything in the room. Catching our breath on a hike up the mountain one summer, pressing our lips together, sharing our panting. In the theater at the end of a romantic movie just before the lights came up.

On our anniversary, one year after our fourth kiss. Hot, strong, passionate, even more so than a year before.

Our first Christmas morning, with the snow outside and the world at peace. Our second Christmas morning, knowing how much it meant to me, knowing there was nothing he could do but be there with me. And the soft one, later that day, after he’d gently taken the dead phone from my paws and set it down, his eyes and muzzle saying all he needed to.

One or two kisses a day, every day for a year and a half. Some I remember, some I don’t. But each one flows from the last, each one anticipates the next.

And today, two years after our fourth kiss, after our dinner and two bottles of wine. He asks if I regret the choices I made. I tell him ‘never,’ and I punctuate that with a kiss.

“That was our thousandth kiss,” I say.

He pulls back, eyes sparkling. “You counted?”

“I approximated.”

“You’re crazy.” His nosepad touches mine. “So how were the first thousand?”

“You know how they were.” I cup his cheek fur. “Amazing. Beautiful.”

“Well,” he says, settling his paw around the back of my head and bringing his lips to mine, “that was nothing.”