Jack Christian tells a story about how he almost blew it when his wife asked him for a kiss.
“Before we watch this show you need to come over here and give me a kiss,” Anna says from her spot on the blue couch. “And it needs to be a sincere kiss.”
“Yes,” she says, and puckers her lips. “A sincere kiss.”
She’s proud of this term. She seems to mean it. She would like, in fact requires, a whole-hearted smack-a-roo in which I’ll be forced, momentarily at least, to relinquish my pleasant and low-grade evening preoccupations, to cast them off like a blanket or clothes.
When I remain motionless, she makes a disgruntled noise and goes back to scrolling channels. I stand beside her, hoping to cherry-pick a program I want to watch while she hurries toward the several stations likely to be showing never-ending repeats of Law & Order.
“You haven’t paid any attention to me all day,” she says.
This has been Anna’s complaint too frequently since the semester entered its full-throated mania – that I’m often unsettled, that our quality-time is too limited. Sometimes, she’s more or less right that a day has passed without us so much as brushing shoulders. Other times, she says a thing like this, managing to forget completely a round of very recent kissing or cuddling. But often, no matter what the case, the complaint fails to create in me a real urgency to move. I’m even capable of feeling badly about not moving while still not bending to her wish.
“Not all day,” I say.
Really, I have no idea why I don’t just lean down and give her a kiss. My feeling is that our evenings are too fleeting, my quiet space too scarce, so that in my determination to relax, I refuse to do anything relaxing, and despite my fear we’ll become disconnected, I refuse the brief request to connect.
“All I’m asking is for you to give me a kiss,” she says.
Which sends me back to my study of the guide.
“A kiss,” she says. “For a whole minute.”
This, finally, is the problem. I’m suspicious that after a minute she’ll want us to continue this kissing in the bedroom. More youthful, virile visions of myself to the contrary, the idea of having this kiss escalate to full-on bedroom party requires more energy and concentration than I think I can give. Which is a new phenomenon. I find myself more inclined to let it exist than to give it official acknowledgement. But there it is.
“How long’s a minute?” I say.
Anna’s eyes turn cold, and it looks like I’ve blown it. In my belligerence I may have wound us down into a fight that will surely require my full attention, and will definitely, hopefully, end in a longform makeout session. But, Anna surprises me. Her face goes mischievous and happy again, and she says: “Until I say you can stop.”