The Thing Nobody Teaches You About Kissing
I believe that our identity dilemma is bigger than gender and bigger than sexual preference. These are two slivers, two fragments of ourselves, broken off of a more complex question.
These labels may tell part of our story, but they do not tell all of it.
I can say that I am a heterosexual female. You can tell me you are a trans male. In some regard those statements might be accurate, but language is inherently metaphorical, a discipline full of gaps, so no matter what titles we give to ourselves, they will only show us a shadow of one another when we exchange what we have chosen.
If I am straight and you are gay, that tells me so little about you. It doesn't tell me how you feel about thunderstorms, or why you don't like the color green. It doesn't tell me what scares you most, or what makes you laugh, or why you're hesitant to talk on public transit.
Once we realize this, we can decide to make more time for our conversation. We can sit and tell stories about our attractions and our longings. We can go back and explain where we first felt whole (or kind of whole), and where we began to feel divided. We can talk about struggle, and shame, and loneliness, and anger. We can talk about who we wanted to be, and who we have managed to become instead.
We can scrape the sides of our memories and appeal to one another, and like all people do when talking about the world from one single spot - shout across the expanse of our biases and our hesitations and our suspicions - hoping to connect to another soul, hoping that the sentences we make make some kind of sense.
After we have talked for five thousand years and told every story there is to tell -- when all those labels that first made it so easy to dispose of one another have fallen into place inside of larger narratives, what will we have?
I don't know. But I will tell you my fear.
When we were children, we ran at one another with open arms, trusting. Like babies reaching for the breast of a mother, we wanted friendship to fill us up.
We felt hunger. That meant there must be milk.
And then we saw sharpness in one another, and selfishness, and deception. We kept trying and trying again, and sometimes people were a refuge, and sometimes they were a foretaste of hell.
The closer love came to filling our bellies, the more dangerous it became. So we flinched, and we fondled, and we laughed, and we grieved, and we grew frightened.
There are so many people I love, and so many people who have loved me, but even the best of the loves I have known have always been broken somehow. Though we were made for one another, we cannot be everything for one another. Either by death of body or by death of trust, we have a way of taking ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
There must be something deeper than two matched, human hands on opposite sides of a window glass. There must be, or we wouldn't still feel this want at the end of our sweetest joy.
The thing nobody teaches you about kissing is that you have to learn to breathe in the middle of it. Yes, two sweet mouths come together, but even in the tingle and honey of the best embrace, the lungs still cry for air.
New lovers caught up in new passion sometimes laugh, because in their delight, they have forgotten to inhale. "Hold on," she says, pulling apart from him. "I feel dizzy."
And so it is with man to man. Man to woman. Woman to woman.
Some say that God has made us so that we speak his name with every breath. The first word of life, YHWH. The last exhale, YHWH.
I don't know about that, but I do find it interesting that in our thirsty comings together, in our seeking of blessing and union, as we try to find a lover's name whispered over us that will nail us at last to ourselves like Peter Pan's shadow, even in the heights of deepest ecstasy, we must always still breathe.
No lover's thrill protects us from breath, no diversion, no legal bond. We air pump in and out. In and out. Taking in what is pure. Passing out what is toxic. And even if we pass out on our beds, little trickles of pleasure running up and down our limbs, as we sleep, we breathe.
I am a straight woman. A monogamist. A political moderate. These are my labels, but in none of these is my redemption.
I am a spirit thirsty for air. I am an exhaler of poisons. I am a pair of lungs in a cramp. And when I pray, I pray like a soul rising through deep green water.
"Jesus. I thought I would drown in that darkness. Whatever you see of me is true. I will not resist You. I will not defy You. Name me. Fill me. Change me."