Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
A Long Time

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"I've wanted to do this a long time," she says into his mouth, in her mind, as their first kiss winds down. She looks into his closed eyes. His warm tongue is like blotter paper, soaking in her words.

The setting changes in her imagination, but she always says the same thing:

Their first kiss (behind the bleachers): "I've wanted to do this a long time."

Their first kiss (outside his classroom): "I've wanted to do this a long time."
Their first kiss (by his front door when his wife isn't home, or in the parking lot at the team pizza party, or pressed against the wall of a freeway underpass, or crouched under a weeping willow): the same words, over and over again.

She's wanted to kiss him a long time, this man, her daughter's basketball coach, the French teacher at her daughter's high school. She's wanted to French kiss him a long time. She can't stop imagining it. When she picks up her daughter after practice. When she watches him run up and down the court during a game. When she's the only parent left milling around and he teaches her a few French words -- bouche, say, or foir. When she sees basketball on TV. When she sees a basketball hoop in someone's driveway. When she's driving. When she's asleep. When her husband is kissing her. She can't stop thinking about his lips.

She kisses her hand, tells it "I've wanted to do this a long time." She kisses the mirror, tells it "I've wanted to do this a long time" before she wipes the lip prints off the glass. She opens a mango and kisses that, too, tells it the same thing. She hasn't felt this kind of desire in years. She doesn't know what it is about him -- the way he cradles the ball with his long fingers, the way the hairs on his arms glint under the florescent lights, the way his bottom lip curls forward a little bit, like some sort of lush drooping orchid. She just knows she wants to kiss him. Desperately. Just kiss him. That's all. No need for sex. No need for adultery. Just a kiss, between two adults. Several kisses, perhaps. It would be sweet, really. Innocent. Pure. Just a kiss. Or a few. Something she's wanted to do for a long time.

She wonders if her daughter has caught on, if her daughter has figured out why they stay at the gym so much later than the other kids and their parents. Her daughter, who has never had a date but is starting to write hearts with unfamiliar initials in the margins of her notebooks, is starting to experiment with lip gloss. Her daughter who will want to start kissing people soon, if she hasn't wanted to, hasn't started to, already.

She wonders if he has caught on, if he knows how much she wants to kiss him. Sometimes she thinks so. Sometimes he rolls his Rs in a way that makes her think he wants to kiss her, too; sometimes his eyes catch hers and they both blush. At least she does. At least she likes to think he does.

Her husband's breath smells like pickling spices and smoke. Her husband's lips are dry and prone to canker sores. His lips would taste like cling peaches. They would be soft and tender. They would fit perfectly with her own. Her husband's lips are clumsy, his tongue bumpy as a lizard. Their kissing styles don't mesh; even in the very beginning when they kissed all the time, she knew something was wrong.

He, on the other hand, would make her lips melt. They would invent new kisses together, behind the bleachers, under the weeping willow, kisses no one could heretofore imagine. Slam dunk kisses. Hoop-there-it-is kisses. Three point kisses with one second to go.

She feels herself brimming with their first kiss. She is overflowing with this kiss. If she ever actually experienced this kiss, she might dissolve. She might liquefy into quicksilver, crazy runnels that dance across the floor, slip down the storm drain and disappear. And isn't that what she's really wanted? Isn't that what she's wanted to do for a long, long time?

Gayle Brandeis is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperSanFrancisco) and The Book of Dead Birds: A Novel (HarperCollins), which won Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize for Fiction in Support of a Literature of Social Change. Her second novel, Self Storage, will be published by Ballantine in 2007. Gayle, also a teacher and a community activist, was named a Writer Who Makes a Difference by Writer Magazine. She lives in Riverside, California with her husband and two children.

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