Stealing Kisses

There was a pounding in my dream. Could it be the surging chant of the Crystals’ killer line, “And then he kissed me”? It seemed to me I was about to have the wild gaze and wilder hair of Natalie Wood or Harpo Marx descend on me. But as I awoke I realized that the eager head was Lassie come home. Kissing can be pretty nice, you used to hear. Between the ages of ten and thirteen, in the dark, kiss-kiss scenes went from being squirm-making to I can’t get enough of this. There were teenagers in the back row at the Regal and the Astoria who seemed to be going further still. What a time! Where has that habit gone? Was it waning at the movies well before Covid? Had “sincere” love stories turned comical, shoved aside by deadpan ironies for kids to sneer at? There was a time when filmgoers wept over love stories. Past the age of fifty, you may recall the collisional rapture of two faces and the overflow of mouths. Did waves peak in oral caves? Tongues winding in the dark. The binge streaming with saliva. Are you beginning to be thrilled or nostalgic in our protocols of distancing? Or does such sensual language feel awkward now? Foreplay rhapsodies from 1959 are generally as dead as On the Beach or Ben-Hur. In that same year, Some Like it Hot served up sex as a buffet of custard and blancmange, but the sweets tasted sour to warn us that the old association with love was demented. Hot could be very cold. Still, I love the metamorphosis from Harpo to Lassie, and every station on that line. Even if we’ve forgotten the other creature’s name, we only have to close our eyes and inhale to regain the hesitation and

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