Countdown to a kiss

Published December 31, 2016, 4:05 PM

by manilabulletin_admin

by AA Patawaran


Everything is on fire on New Year’s Eve.

And not being burned is the last thing you want if you’re like Bob, a dashing debonair, whose eyes gleam like fire in the sky.

Ten minutes before midnight, he is caught between delighting in every conflagration piercing the coal-colored midnight sky and staying on the prowl for a different combustion, the infernal heat of lips meeting right after the New Year’s Eve countdown, an annual personal tradition.

At a neighbor’s apartment to ring out the old and ring in the new, in a buttondown that hugs his gym-shaped six-foot-one-inch frame, Bob looks around the party expectantly, in search of such perfect puckers. Whose lips will set his ablaze?



There are Connie’s, but she is too vampy tonight, in a dress riddled with polka dots in the deep shade of passion. Her lips are in fire-engine red and so are her long, pointed nails, like beaks and claws soaked in blood. As if sensing his gaze, she turns in Bob’s direction and Bob, running his fingers through his precociously salt-and-pepper 30something hair, instinctively looks down at his Jack Purcells to avoid her eyes.



And then there’s Kissa, but her lips look like they were bitten by a bloodsucker and all the blood has been sucked out of them. In truth, Bob likes Kissa, though she seems to weigh so little, almost as if she could vanish any moment, blown by the wind. Her clavicles make him wince and her neck is so unusually long he finds it impossible not to look at it. Tonight, though, her lips betray her vapidness. The rest of her fades into the empty pit lined by those invisible lips. Slipping his free hand into the pocket of his Selvedge denims, he looks away as Kissa passes in his direction, feeling her eyes bore on his chiseled jawline.



Rebecca is perfect, skin as smooth as porcelain, white as snow freshly fallen from her Japanese father’s genes. She is gentle and dressed just right for the occasion, a party for people who all live in the same apartment building. She speaks so softly Bob has to strain his ears to hear her, but every morning when they meet downstairs she speaks loud enough to greet him good morning. On Christmas Day, she knocked on her door and gave him a box of cookies as a Christmas present. It should be nice to give her a kiss on New Year’s Eve, but Rebecca is married-—and happily. Too much fish in the sea to bother with this one, at least not tonight.



Thinking he should have brought his newly bought Moncler lightweight jacket, Bob walks across the room and into the balcony. On it he finds Valerie, rubbing her bare arms against the cold breeze of late December. She stands in heels too high for a house party and her legs run endlessly long below the hem of her skirt too short for a party next door. “Do you have a light,” she rasps, a stick of Marlboro Lights dangling from her lips so black they are almost violet. But, between those grunge lips, like an enter-at-your-own-risk invitation, he glimpses the redness of the inside of her mouth. Bob shakes his head. He hasn’t smoked since college. He finds it repulsive to kiss a smoker’s mouth. He turns back into the apartment and heads for the kitchen.



In the kitchen, Claire is busy cleaning up. She appears a little bit embarrassed being there, instead of partying with the others. “I’m so sorry I can’t help it. This kitchen is a mess,” she mutters, fixing the cupcakes on a tray rather than the loose strands of hair across her face. Bob has always found Claire a little off. The cleaning lady says she is such a bother, always complaining about the smells wafting in the hallways, whether it is the smell of bacon frying in the pan or fish cooking on the grill. She pulls paper towel off the roll on the kitchen counter and wipes her hands, asking if there is anything she could do for him. To say no, Bob blows her an absent, meaningless kiss. He is a certified mamma’s boy but he is not one to kiss his mother on New Year’s Eve, certainly not on the lips. Almost in a hurry, he leaves the kitchen.



Ah, there she is, Bob sighs, as he walks right back into the living room. Now this is the girl you wish you could keep under the mistletoe. Liana is the star of Bethlehem as she is here in this New Year’s Eve gathering of the relatively young in Bob’s covetable money-is-everything apartment building. Although her skin shows off the luxury of basking in the sun of tropical beaches, always tanned to a crisp, she is the splendor of the fireworks that ignite the sky. Tonight, she is dressed plainly in a little black dress, little rubies sparkling on her earlobes, matching the color of her wine-kissed lips. Is it possible to be so graceful yet so alive and animated at the same time? But Bob finds Liana a bit of a challenge and himself a little too lazy to pursue challenges, not when it’s just a matter of choosing whom to lock lips with on New Year’s Eve. She seems a little disinterested, although he thinks she is always dressed to charm him even when, in the afternoons, she comes up to their floor from the stairwell, dripping in sweat, the muscles in her lower legs bulging after running several blocks around the neighborhood and up and down the apartment stairs. Bob purses his lips to signal that he is ready to kiss, but she slaps him on his upper arm to keep him away. She is way behind him before he can engage her in small talk. Bob heaves a deep breath, catching a whiff of his own Declaration Cartier cologne blending with Liana’s scent. Today’s girls move so fast chasing them is like running the marathon. Bob wears shoes too expensive to run in and why chase this one when there are too many other stars in the galaxy?



Sprawled on the sofa is Manika, eyes closed and cheeks flushed in the same shade as the pink of her lips. She has a bob cut that frames her face like a helmet in some science fiction movie. She is new in the apartment building, an artist and a little weird like any rich man’s daughter in search of her own place in the world, always having a drink too many. It can be fun talking to her just before she passes out, but not for Bob, who finds Manika too opinionated, too much going on in her head. What does it feel like to shut her up (and wake her up) with a long, wild, wet kiss? But not like this, not while she is dead to the world, not on New Year’s Eve. He cannot waste his kiss on a girl who cannot appreciate how precious it is.



And Bob is in a panic. Whom to kiss? The countdown is deafening now, so are all the welcoming noises, the skies exploding overhead. As if in answer, Valerie, the girl with lips so black they are almost violet, suddenly steps into the living room from the balcony, arms wide open, a smile so warm it makes her face as bright as the fireworks in the sky behind her. Instinctively—or is it the second hand on his Panerai ticking away the last three seconds?—he smiles back, one arm reaching out to her in reciprocal greeting. But from behind him, Liana brushes past, hitting his other arm and almost causing him to spill the Hibiki 12 from the barrel dram shot glass in his hand.



And Liana runs straight into Valerie’s arms…



Happy New Year!

But Bob does not hear his voice joining in the cacophony, nor does he witness the night turning into day as the sky bursts into flames. Eyes wide open, jaws dropping to the floor, he stares right at Liana and Valerie joined in a New Year’s Eve kiss, one pair of lips so black they are almost violet disappearing into the other pair lined in the color of red, red wine.


Ah, all these women and not a pair of lips to kiss.

Happy New Year, indeed!


AUTHOR’S NOTE: Bob is a perfect man in an imperfect world. He is a figment of imagination, purely fictional, so is every other character in this story.

The author is also on Twitter and Instagram as @aapatawaran and Facebook as Arnel Patawaran.