Because I cannot remember my first kiss
but I remember sitting alone on the brown couch in my grandmother’s living room, couch whose cushion covers were of velvet and the color of dark rust, or dried blood —and sewn by the tailor from up the block, the same one who made me my first light blue suit two years earlier And I sat there running my hands back and forth over the short smooth hairs of the fabric and understanding what touch meant for the first time—not touch, the word, as in don’t touch the hot stove or don’t touch your grandfather’s hats but touch like Tom Jones was singing it right then on the television, with a magic that began in his hips, swiveled the word and pushed it out through his throat into some concert hall somewhere as a two-syllabled sprite, so that women moaned syllables back in return. And I knew I wanted to touch like that because Tom Jones stooped down at the edge of the stage and a woman from the audience in a leopard-print jumpsuit unfurled from her front row seat, walked like a promise of what I couldn’t quite discern up to him and pushed her mouth soft and fast up against his mouth and they both cooed into his microphone mouths still move-moaning together like that for an eternity. And then Tom Jones unlocks his mouth from hers while my breath is still caught in my throat, and moves to the other end of the stage, and squats there, and kisses another woman from the audience in a black jumpsuit, while the first woman looks on, swaying so slightly I almost can’t tell—to the band which is still vamping the chorus line— mesmerized and taut with expectation as I am, palms down on the velvet-haired cushions and Tom pauses, sensing the first woman’s impatient almost-mewling and says Easy Tiger while he moves his mouth against this woman’s, his cheeks working like tiny bellows, before returning to the first one and then the bridge or the chorus or whatever—at that point the song is an afterthought, and I knew there was a mission to be fulfilled—Tom Jones pointed to the women and said touch and the new color TV made everything shimmer with promise so my eight year old body preened and stretched itself against the ecstatic couch and dreamed of what tomorrow could be like if I could make touch mean so many things, if I could make a building or a body coo like this.
Memory is very much on my mind, nearly every day. We are the sum total of our memories; or perhaps we are the sum total of all the things we can no longer remember.