There is no urgency to his kiss, no rising heat. Do not take this to mean his kiss is without feeling or cold. It is fire checked, that kiss. You would be mistaken to think it is completely free of passion.
There is no rising because these two know better now than to lose control. They know better than to kiss but they kiss anyway, though they keep the fires banked and tight reins on minds keep their bodies from full betrayal. There is no moaning here, no pressing harder or holding tighter or hankering for still more. Instead, things far more dangerous rise between them: a claiming and a discarding.
She claims what parts of him she can reach, her mark forever after a whispering at the back of his skull, a conscience where his is seared, a tingling between his shoulder blades just out of reach of scrabbling fingers. He will carry that mark – her -forever and always.
As she unknowingly yet not unwillingly lays her mark upon him he discards everything she represents, throws it away for the effort it would take to claim her in return, chooses the path of least resistance and all because when everything has been said, his word cannot stand.
He has the capacity to break her and in his presence she knows it, cannot deny it, accepts what he is capable of because to resist is to break anyway (she knows that much at least). In his arms, holding to the moment to stop her mind reaching for other moments that would break the world, her world, as he broke it once before, she accepts what is offered, takes it with thanks, savours it. It is good.
That acceptance that what is cannot transmute to more is what saves her: a kiss is offered and she does not yearn for more, she enjoys kissing him not in lieu of lovemaking nor as a prelude to deeper intimacy but simply for its own sake. Thus, kissing him is good and satisfying. Sated, she walks away almost whole, quite unbroken, without regret and only a tinge of sorrow. She is only human after all and what is it to be human but to feel?
He takes what she offers and finds it suited to his need and perfect for his pleasure. He does not know that what she gives him is tempered out of her desire that he, too, walk away without regret. He does not know the price she pays to hold him and be held by him and keep both wild desire and hot tears at bay. Of course he does not know. He thinks it is his handling of her that’s done the trick. He is too blind too see or too distracted to notice or perhaps he is wading too deep in melodrama of his own making.
All he knows is her willingness which he misinterprets as need, and that makes him pity her. That pity dooms them. There is no passion without respect after all, and who can respect or desire that which arouses pity?
And there, the answer to the question she used to ask in moments of self-indulgence: does he feel what she feels?
Where there was once a wanting and a rising and a burning for each other’s attention and affection, now there is only his pity. That pity is a stain in her memory of that kiss but she accepts it too, bends with it and does not break. What choice does she have after all? To break or not to break, and having broken once, this time she knows to bend and sway. He is what he is after all, a mere man, broken, and with too much awareness of the darkness within himself and too little of the grace within her.
That too dooms them.
Only grace can dress those wounds, but what is grace in the face of unbelief?
She is the passion he seeks but it will take depths of emotion he can no longer reach to arouse that passion and he is too tired to try. She does not know just how tired he is and as he misinterprets her willingness as need and pities her for it, she reads his exhaustion in her own way.
So much that they could and should share but what would life and love stories be if there were no missed opportunities? Here, between these two, there would be trust, honesty, commitment (eventually, perhaps) but the story would also be one of fighting for one’s right to choose, of betrayal and lust and sacrifice. Here the sweetness of life and the joy of communion but also a tragic tale of disharmony and families fractured.
But, that kiss. There is more to that kiss. Goodbye is entwined with the familiarity of that kiss. It is stained by the shadow of what could have been. They did not know until later – she sooner than him – that that kiss was a goodbye, a farewell to a love that could have been but is not. Even the gods and goddesses grow tired of the folly of humanity and withdraw offers made. A great love was offered, a chance not taken, and now it is gone.
She, perhaps more than many others, knows that everything is not for everyone. She, more than him, knows that she is not for him – not anymore – and that he is not for her. Perhaps he never was.