The Moment Before You Kissed Me

He fumbles with the keys to his apartment as I lean into him, my intoxication leveling off, but I’m still so drunk. He drops them, this cartoonish jingle as they smack against the welcome mat. He laughs. I want to bottle the sound and sip it every single night.

“Welcome!” He motions to his living room, cracks that crescent moon smile and I can’t look him in the eyes. Because I’m afraid he can see my love. I’m afraid he will see the hope and desire and overwhelming need to kiss him right there in the door frame. His lips are so thin, but I can’t stop thinking about how they will feel. Mine are full, part into rosebuds when I think about the first night we met, months ago. “I cannot love someone I haven’t kissed. I can’t love him so soon.” I tell myself to get it the fuck together.

But he puts an arm around me and I’m saying it again. “I love him. I love him.” His shoulders slope like those grand hills you see painted in murals. I want to touch them, marvel at the sturdiness, the beauty. His voice cracks and I think I’ve never wanted someone so badly before. I am 22 years old and he is 25. I am still in college, sheltered from the realities of true adulthood. He lives alone. I think about never going back to class and staying alone with him instead.

We still haven’t kissed at all yet. I keep wondering when it will happen. Because it’s not the first time we’ve been out. There was the bar. The open mic. The walk in my neighborhood. But I pull away first in the hug, quickly run up the stairs to my apartment building. My legs take off before I allow myself that moment.

You know that moment? The linger.

The frozen-in-time linger, when everything is kind of weird and amazing. When hearts become auditory drums and your body takes over. But I’m too scared. I’m too scared of how much I already want him. Because what if I linger and he doesn’t? What if I love and he doesn’t?

So I run. I do a lot of that. For a girl who hated gym class, I’m always running away.

“So, you want to go to bed?”

I want to go to bed. We still have not kissed. But he is awkward and kind. He gets me a T-shirt. Turns his back so I can change. Pretends to sneak a look. I want him to look. We get into bed. He tells me, “You are becoming my favorite.”

And everything inside is on fire. I am afraid I will cough up ash because nothing has felt like this. He takes off his shirt, but not in some Casanova move. He’s just getting into bed. He’s respecting me. I look over and think that’s some Sistine Chapel shit right there. A masterpiece and I don’t know if I should be allowed to touch. I want to kiss him. I want to be alone in this bed with him forever.

“You are my favorite too.”

“What is this?”

“I don’t know.”

And it’s too much to stop. We kiss and I notice the color of his walls, the color of his eyes, my technicolor heart exploding. And with our first kiss, in his bed, both half naked, I am in love.

And now I would give anything to be frozen-in-time in that linger. The moment before the kiss and tragedy of loving another human so much. The moment before he kissed me. Back when we were the story, not just a chapter. TC mark

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Ari Eastman

✨ real(ly not) chill. poet. writer. mental health activist. mama shark. ✨

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