The Kissing Bender

At first, it was done out of mere drunkenness, as opposed to predetermined spite. She just wanted to wet her whistle (or does that sound too overly euphemistic?), so to speak, on the lust front. It had been so long since she had been touched, felt the lips of another on her own. It was all the better that he had stubble for that added effect of intrinsic masculinity rubbed on her face. His overt youth rubbed her the right way, too. He was her first, of that night anyway–and many subsequent nights to come. The one who would set the precedent for her alcohol-fueled animalism. And in the end, what were men really good for other than a kiss by way of, for all intents and purposes, sexual assault? A political act, she reasoned. It was important to her, in the end, to give them a taste of their own medicine.

And oh, how so many of them got it. From the bars of Brooklyn to the “hotel lounges” of Manhattan, there was no milieu where spirits were present that Stefania left unturned in her quest to fulfill her kissing benders. At forty-three, a part of her relished how disgusted of a reaction she could get out of each man as they tasted the inherent mustiness of her saliva. Or so she surmised that must be what it was that so automatically repelled them from her. For it wasn’t as though she was unattractive–visibly old. One supposed it was something these boys–“young men” felt like too generous a classification to Stefania–could simply sense about her as they experienced the accosting of her taste, her scent. A bombardment upon them all at once as they processed just why they seemed to favor such increasingly nubile pussy in their “old age.” They were the late twenties/early thirties financier/real estate types who were, in one sense, looking to settle down, but, in another, more enamored of the notion of wielding their money to “get” whatever girl they wanted. And the girl they wanted was no older than twenty-three. The girl they wanted was, in short, not Stefania. Stefania, all bathed in green and pink pastels bedecked by gold jewelry and white furs. This aesthetic was, perhaps, why she was both not looked at twice in establishments such as these but, at the same time, regarded as highly suspect. For no one dressed in such a manner anymore. Not even “rich” women. As though rich women could have such an adjective in front of their gender without the help of a man. Of which there was never any to be found near Stefania until she kiss bombed them.

Her approach to doing so, though seemingly willy nilly, was two-pronged. First, she would size up the entirety of the bar, taking in every single sausage she could pinpoint (for often, one had to look at the bulge to truly gauge whether or not he was worth the effort of this level of objective humiliation). Then, she would choose another man–one she did not want to kiss–to talk to before turning her head like a depraved human owl to plant one on the object of her desire.

She could appraise with just one mere glance who would be her unsuspecting victim. Single-serving suitor, really. And what was the harm in looking at it like that? As each very brief tryst being a one-time affair to forget. Almost Victorian in nature for the chasteness connoted by a lack of penetration. Both physical and emotional, in truth. Though Stefania did so desperately want to parlay it into something that felt at least somewhat affecting, her passionate display was ultimately just performance. An experiment in assessing reactions. Or lack thereof, it appeared, in most cases. In fact, it was almost as though she was trying to shock these men back to life. Back to true and visceral existence. Alas, it was too late for them. There was nothing even she could do to recondition them from the society of numbness they had been raised in. The one that said over and over again: do not feel. Because feeling is the only thing more dangerous than not feeling at all. She knew that, had written the book on it–no, really.

In the early 90s, Stefania Cassamelte had been riding high on the wave of self-help literature with her book, How to Feel Again. It was a lot of mumbo jumbo, of course–but it had such an air of authenticity due to the bold and assertive conviction of Stefania’s sentences. Maybe it had to do with the hot-bloodedness of being half-Italian that made her truly believe in isms like, “In order to heal, you must take care of your heels. The feet are the source for all release of toxins, therefore pain.” Stefania held herself personally responsible for the sudden spike in reflexology interest that took Chinatown by storm that year. She expected a discount accordingly when she raged to them in their same broken English language to get her point across, waving the specific chapter of her book at them to make it absolutely clear that she had been indispensable to the rejuvenated rise of their industry. They went along with it mainly to get her to shut up. And that was Stefania’s gift in life–to be so loud, so indefatigable that people finally had to listen to her.

That’s why she found this whole serial kissing phase of her life so poetic. It was her way of continuing to subjugate other voices and opinions from getting into her head. Allowed her the autonomy of literally controlling someone else with her mouth. Wielding them like a marionette with the sole power of her bouche. And what a mighty one it was. It could eviscerate with a single writhing inside of another man’s face. She was literally inside their head. After a solid year of doing this, however, Stefania finally experienced that horrendous phenomenon: a plateau. Doling out besos at random to undeserving and unappreciative men no longer gave her a thrill, or even a slight flutter. She had to change tack, she decided, after bestowing one last limp kiss on her youngest subject to date, a barely legal Puerto Rican boy at what seemed to be a nameless bar in the deep recesses off the Broadway JMZ.

Darting back out into the night, she called a car to make her way home, to her loft in the West Village, the one that was still rent controlled and procured at the height of her book revenue glory days. But then, as the driver happened to be passing by The Cubby Hole, she reflexively exclaimed, “Stop!” She heaved the door open and, with a hint of renewed titillation, sauntered toward the entrance. Maybe kissing men had been played, but who was to say that combusting women with her powerful pucker might not suddenly bring revitalized cachet to her little enterprise?

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