a critique of statistics regarding the hours an average human being will spend kissing another human being over the course of a lifetime, and just how we might wish to define, redefine, or refrain from defining that, etc.



i read somewhere recently that, over the course of a lifetime, a human being will likely spend, on average, upwards of two weeks engaged in the rapturous (sometimes mundane) act of kissing their fellow humans. Lovely as such a fact appears at first glance, when subject to further scrutiny and deeper introspection, i find myself increasingly dissatisfied with said statistic. Fourteen days, spread out through the years, seems a pittance, considering the physical joy of lip-locked embraces, their simultaneous singularity and highly contextualized, nuanced, ephemerally dizzying effects sweetly escorting those parties engaged towards a phenomenal ether-sphere of becoming. This is to say nothing of a recurring idea, a phrase that keeps emerging on the frontiers of my thoughts, wherein I ask myself: “what do you remember of the earth,” or, “if the earth had a taste, what on earth would it taste like,” questions related with metaphorical ease to the act of kissing other people. Hence, i’m finding myself, when mulling over said statistic, a bit disgruntled with any one definition of “the kiss,” such as it is.

Allow me to (rather tangentially) illustrate. i may recall myself one night, many years ago, passing time in the great Catalan city of Barcelona. Sprawling along the Mediterranean coast, the city of Gaudi and Barca, of paella and anarchists, stretches from beaches and coastal plain up craggy mountains overlooking that blue sea with such a penchant for drowning poets and mixing destinies; might recall the region’s whitewashed towns blooming outward from their Roman nuclei like the rings millennia old trees, labyrinths full of romance and bullet holes; stained glass windows wrought in art nouveau frames standing mystic watch over marble alleyways strewn with rose petals and urban detritus and the like. At any rate, one night I found myself alive beneath the full moon in May at a rave on the beach with a Spanish woman named Barbara. Barbara, who claimed to be a flamenco dancer; to love poetry and abhor bull fighting; who claimed to have never read a single page of Don Quixote. Her auburn hair was all tousled and blew gently in the wind drifting westward across the water. She wore a red dress and sang with the raspy voice of angels at home on earth, in places filled with half-light, in the rhythms of lost time. i will always believe she was actually a fish and possibly possessed some vague powers of alchemy, because the two of us, leaving a trail of our minimal clothing littered across the sand like frayed prayer flags, swam for hours, further and further out into the black, deepening swells, laughing and screaming and probably, to some extent, wishing to be swallowed up forever in the glory and sorrow and rose blood of Odysseus’ sea, transformed into translucent creatures of the endless depths searching for youth’s sacred Ithaca. The point is that we didn’t kiss, in the put your lips together and bite your partner’s lower one as they explore the wetness between your upper lip and teeth kind of way. Nope, not that sort of kiss where you roll your tongues in circles around one another’s, press and pull, envelope and release sort of thing. Nothing at all like that kiss you’re thinking of, the one that only ends when you both finally let go and pry apart, each uncertain of stance, draped in silence as you breathe deeply and stare at each other smiling before laughter convulsively grips both your bodies, and you clasp hands and run away someplace to do your thing. No, it wasn’t like that at all. It was more as though the ocean itself was a giant mouth that held us, gave us this dark place on and away from the earth, safe and dangerous and rapturous; as if the sea had just kissed our bodies, whirled us up and down, gifting us moments—sensuously singular though potentially reproducible, given the correct and surreal combination of contexts—to become something liminal. The sea held us, kissed us, and we were like two tongues, or two intentions, or two fish hooked and captured but at the last possible minute tossed back into the waters. Anyway, we swam for hours in what can only be called one insanely and mostly impossible (as regards a body’s physical potential to tread water) kiss, so i feel like that uses up a slightly disturbing amount of my two week kissing quota, when broken down into hours, and i’m not okay with this. 

Something i remember of earth: two bodies laughing in the sea. The taste of salt ingering in my mouth. The glistening stickiness of skin communing with air rolling off the water, headed for someplace unknown, irreducible. Night transformed to a dawning sapphire, shifted from pink to orange to the rising degrees of day, slow and deliberate as it always has, and those moments coalesced with my marrow, my blood, where they dwell: my sweet secret. But i can reference that long night in Barcelona whenever i wish, thanks to our very human capacity for recall, mythologizing, and forgery, meaning that I can lock myself back in the full murk of that kiss whenever i wish, which i’ve done many times, by this point exhausting at least three weeks or five hundred four hours worth of life engendering moments of memory nearly rendered material by will.

We should all be so lucky to really love another human being, at least once in our lives. To have someone who, when we think of them, we find our mind screaming “yes yes yes yes yes!” into the void, you know, like Molly at the end of Ulysses, the kiss and the cliffs and the sea and all that. At any rate, there’s this one person whom i’ll love forever, regardless of whomever else they or i choose to love, regardless of how much the earth seems to love us, or we seem to love and hurl our desirous bodies about the earth. As long as i can remember. They came to visit me the other day, and then went back home. Feeling their presence, followed swiftly by their absence, i took a walk around the small town we once shared, and which i currently share with ghosts. So it seems to my skin, at least, and some of the songs lilting through my mind. It’s springtime here, now, and i can’t even speak about it, but all the colors, the green of the fresh leaves were more green, somehow, and the violet and white and flushed ruddiness of the flowers and the rhododendrons were more of themselves. When they was here. i guess that’s what strength is, what connection does to a body. What memory does when it (or we) reminds us of specific things, and the dullness of accumulation and sleep recedes. 

i found myself at the site of our first kiss, in a parking lot between some college-ass, hellish apartments where, one night in December, we’d had been hanging out awkwardly at a dirty Santa Christmas party, the kind of soiree where you give out Rudolph themed dildos and drink shots you’ve, perhaps a bit hastily, lit afire—shit like that. So, that got a bit old, and we stepped out across the snowy parking lot and staggered over to another cat’s apartment, which was and still is situated up a ramshackle iron staircase above a Domino’s Pizza (a red brick, multi-use building where we used to play cards and guitars and each other’s twenty something emotions), and they had some antlers strapped to their belt they’d gotten at the aforementioned party, and i was wearing a torn black pea coat, and we were totally digging on each other but i’m real shy, so whatever, but they grabbed me by the arm and spun me around right in front of all these people, and we started kissing (actually kissing, not in the metaphorical sense), and i don’t think we stopped for the next few years. Snow fell gently across our shoulders, resembling all the flakes of stars nobody could see in the gray winter sky, though were certainly there, at some point, if not still, or perhaps are waiting to be born.

Again, as before, when i think on this one moment, it is with me immediately: a recurring dream of life. A week’s worth of awkward phone calls leading up to that blizzard of a night; we, tipping back fiery liquor; antlers of a strange beast poking my gut; lips deflowered again, as if for the first time; the yes yes yes yes; the quiet of the falling snow. 

The taste of this earth: immediate.

All this must mean that, through memory or nostalgia, desire, longing, or some mixture of all those vague and auspicious things, amorous and/ or otherwise, i can return to that place. In fact, i’m there now (or just was, in the paragraph above), leading me to believe that that kiss is still happening, always happening. Ten years have passed, but it might still be happening. 

What is a kiss, anyway, but memory of life on earth? Maybe it’s true that we all spend two weeks or three hundred and thirty six hours of our lives engulfed in the physical act of kissing. Then again, maybe there’s more to it than that. If we wander these allotted years mindful of the earth, of all the things in it we allow ourselves to take in, receive and return, put our breath and our lips and our hands against, returning all that yes with our hopes beyond hope, maybe the earth is kissing us all the time, and hours have got nothing to do with it.



x-tian whitfield is a poet, essayist, musician, student, and worker living in Brooklyn, NY. Their creative work utilizes intersectionality, exploring the self's composition(s) and instability within social structures/ contexts.