Kissing to Be Cunning

Must find someone. Must. Find. Someone. The mantra went through the heads of everyone in the room like a hive of bees sent by the queen to attack. It was as though they had no control over their own thoughts, as though some unseen force was guiding the desires and pursuits ignited within their minds. For ask any one of them why what happened, happened that night, and they could never put it concretely into words. But there they were, voracious, as the clock struck midnight–almost out of nowhere. And in that shift from one year into the next, something incredible manifested. The irrepressible human need to feel connected to someone in moments of society-deemed significance took hold, and everyone clutched to the person closest to them to secure a kiss. That one inexplicable, majestic act that signals it might be okay–a little better even–in the New Year.

Earlier in the evening, however, one might never have guessed that any of these people at the party would be the sort to so readily and willingly engage in what amounted to a priest or nun’s version of an orgy. Eva, for example, was one of the last sought after stenographers in the city, charging an exorbitant rate of twenty dollars an hour for her services. As the transition from 1982 to 1983 loomed, Eva, usually not one for blasting music loudly on her record player, decided to place side one of Culture Club’s Kissing to Be Clever on the turntable, with “White Boy” setting the tone for much of the clientele she would be seeing at tonight’s party. “You’re white, dance like the enemy,” Boy George chanted without a hint of being even mildly sardonic. And as Eva daubed her under eye areas with a touch of L’Oreal foundation and topped it off with some Bonne Bell blushing gel, she wondered if she was making a huge mistake by attending this soirée. If walking in alone would immediately set her up as the “pathetic one.” She was twenty-nine years old and would soon be turning thirty at the beginning of February. She felt she had a sign tacked to her forehead indicating as much whenever she walked into any space alone, let alone a New Year’s Eve party. But what else was she to do? Jean had been adamant that there was bound to be an available bachelor there for her to glom onto by the night’s end, and that even if there wasn’t, she could make it so with enough alcohol as a greasing agent on both sides of the gender pool. So with one final application of lip gloss and one final sigh, she was out the door and on her way to the Lower East Side.

In an apartment just several blocks away from hers in SoHo, Benedict was applying a touch of extra gel to his well-coiffed brown locks and spraying himself with Aramis. He, too, would be coming to Jean’s “little get-together” (which always meant something massive) solo. Unlike, Eva, though, he was looking forward to the opportunity that being alone offered at parties. That is to say, a chance to meet new people. At thirty-three years old, he was already ascending up the ranks of Wall Street with no signs of slowing down, and he wanted to show off some of this confidence for the benefit of securing a girl on the most important night of the year for getting laid.

Sandro, a traveler visiting from Milan, was invited to the party by his fellow Italian friend and sometimes “more than,” Alessia. The two had met near the Porta Ticinese and hit it off when Sandro decided it would be wise enough to approach her and ask her where she had purchased her puffer jacket. From a shared passion for fashion that surprisingly didn’t mean Sandro was gay, they would often “come together” in between other relationships to ease the pain in more ways than one. It was only fitting they should share their New Year’s Eve together.

And then, finally, there was the third couple in the trifecta that would later start the orgiastic act of the night to be deemed by Eva as “Kissing to Be Cunning” (she was, after all, the Culture Club enthusiast of the group). Roy and Rebecca, the alliterative duo that everyone was sure could never be broken, had been dating for three years, and everyone was fairly certain that Roy was going to propose tonight for dramatic effect. But when they showed up to the party–Roy far more wasted than a very vexed Rebecca–it was clear that this wasn’t to be the evening for it.

Jean greeted everyone with her usual aplomb, which was a comic sight considering the cast of uncouth characters she had collected over the years of her life in advertising. She wore her blonde hair in a twist knot and was dressed in a form-fitting, heavily shoulder-padded gown and seemed always to have a fresh glass of champagne in hand. She, too, was one of the ones suffering from singledom, but seemed unfazed by the prospect of turning her head at midnight to find no one next to her. She shrugged when Eva expressed concern over the lack of eligible bachelors. “Someone will have to do when the time comes, won’t he, Eva?”

Embarrassed by her loud tone potentially being overheard by the likes of Benedict, Eva distanced herself from Jean to avoid further spotlighting. At the punch table, she did manage to, as she had hoped, strike up a conversation with Benedict, but he actually seemed far more intrigued by Rebecca, vaguely sobbing in the corner. Something about a vulnerable looking woman just always seems to do it for a man, regardless of how unattractive she appears with smeared mascara. It was thus that Rebecca found her lips attached to Benedict’s shortly thereafter. Much to the the chagrin of Roy.

And so the minutes to twelve ticked by at a steady clip until the contagious feeling of frenzy that had been especially pent up within Eva seemed to spread like AIDS through the room. And once Benedict, emboldened by Rebecca’s confessions of despising Roy, took hold of her face, so did the others around them start to make visceral–almost violent–moves. Even Roy chose to grab onto Jean for vengeance purposes. Then Eva was kissing Sandro, and Alessia was kissing the self-proclaimed throughout the night lesbian, and before anyone knew it, a chain reaction had been set off through the room. It all rather looked like some form of cannibalism, this face-sucking force majeure.

Then, after roughly thirty seconds, it was all over. “Happy New Year” was subsequently murmured with a slight sense of shame among the crowd that had only obeyed the inherent order that compels us all to find someone, no matter who, when the clock launches us into the future before we think too closely about the emptiness of the preceding year, and how the new one will likely feel the same. It’s Kissing to Be Cunning. Except the only one you’re trying to outsmart with the distraction of a New Year’s Eve bisou is yourself.


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