How It Feels To Kiss A Stranger Who Isn’t Them


It is 11 pm on your 22nd birthday and everyone you love begins pouring into the building. Well, almost all of them. It’s dark and the moon isn’t bright enough to illuminate that one spot you’ve been reserving for someone who won’t be coming. It’s fine, it’s fine, you convince yourself.

You’ll smile and thank everyone for helping you celebrate. Shots are spilling and everyone is laughing so loudly, you can’t even hear your own thoughts. Everything is buzzing and electric, smells like whisky and rum. You feel warmer than you did at 10 pm. You’re hugging your best friend and nothing hurts. You don’t need anyone else here. Would you even have room? You wonder.

The boy you’ve had a crush on off-and-on for two years shows up. He has a beautiful and infuriatingly kind girlfriend, but you’ve learned how to tuck away your feelings. Well, almost all of them. It’s not your fault his face is so stupidly cute.

He gives you a huge “birthday hug” and for a second, you let yourself imagine he is yours. His touch is warm and you’re hoping people can’t tell how much every inch of you is melting into his embrace. Time slows down. You want to freeze it, hang it on your wall, look at it whenever you’re longing for his mouth.

Someone calls an Uber and the first group piles inside. 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” blasts through the speakers and the contagious laughter is bubbling up again. This is the lightness you’ve been desperately searching for. That maybe things can be fun and silly, not just soaked in loneliness and regret. You allow your lips to relax and sing along, obnoxiously. Loudly. Unapologetically. It’s your birthday, dammit.

You end up in a bar you’ve never been before, talking to people you’ve never met before. People are dancing and sweaty, a blur of faces you love and ones you’re just meeting.

You notice someone across the room wearing a sweater he has, that they move just like he does. You hear a laugh and swear it’s the same one you used to feel rattle your chest late at night. You chalk it up to a tipsy hallucination.

You pull out your phone to check for text messages. “Happy birthday!!” and other various forms of the same sentiment litter your inbox. It’s like everyone in the universe is sending something your way. Well, almost everyone.

Suddenly you are talking to a boy and he is cute, you think. People are pushing you two together and drinks keep getting purchased. “It’s your birthday, you deserve to have fun!” a friend whispers in your ear.

This boy, with dimples and light hazel eyes, puts his hand on your shoulder and you’re even warmer than you were at 11 pm. The man with the same sweater isn’t visible anymore. Or maybe, you’re just not looking.

The boy kisses you and you are kissing him back. You won’t remember how it started and you won’t really care. It’s your birthday, dammit.

You’ll kiss him and say goodbye, take down his phone number, delete in the morning. You’ll kiss him and pretend it feels alright. Well, almost. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Ari Eastman

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

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