I’m fairly sure that my first memory of kissing a man has remained faithful to the event; I was twenty-one, he was much older. It being late in the day, I remember the sensation his part grown stubble had on my lips, I also remember him being embarrassed and turning his head away right at the last moment. I remember him being flustered and recoiling a little in this very public display of affection. I remember this today as I write these words, realizing that I had perhaps overstretched my love for him; the love that I still feel for him, that unconditional love that I had felt for him for as long as I can remember.
My first memory of him was standing at his side when he shaved. I looked on incongruously at the steam rising from the bowl, the water having been emptied from the kettle lifted from the gas burner on the stove. I watched as he applied the shaving soap and lathered his face before purposefully removing it and his bristles from his cheeks, his neck and from under his nose. I wondered about the white of the soap as it turned to the pink of his skin as he rinsed himself, whilst gazing at his own reflection in the shaving mirror. The final ablution almost complete was finished with the application of a tonic for his hair, a clear orange liquid from a bottle retrieved from a cabinet to his left and combed into his neat and regularly barbered hair.
Perhaps at about the same time I remember him holding me, furling his hand around my neck and pulling me to him, making me feel safe, taking me into his world. I knew then that he loved me and would do so forever. We would walk in his garden, he would talk to me, it seemed to me that he wanted to know what I thought about things, what was important to me. He made me feel special, I felt I had an importance to him and when he held my hand he became and stayed the most important man in my life. Strolling slowly down his garden path, towards the vegetable patch, he would want me to know about his feelings on politics, on music, what it meant to him so that I knew him, understood him and what he stood for.
The first present I gave him were a set of cufflinks, they were bought from Clifton’s of Bedford. ‘Real Mother O’ Pearl’ was the label inside the gift case and after he carefully unwrapped them from the Christmas paper he looked at them and let me know the alternate name of Nacre and how it was one of the oldest naturally formed organic substances on the planet. He made my inexpensive present seem so much more valuable to him than I could have imagined. I have worn them whenever I need to feel him close to me.