Who Could You Stand to Kiss

Nancy Connors

We’re in our cubes writing brochures about the importance of actuarial science when Sharon S. looks up from her laptop and she’s like, “OK, who in this office could you stand to kiss?” and Sharon W. and I look at each other like, “Well, this is different,” and for a second there’s that unspoken acknowledgement that a kiss is as far as we’d go, even in fantasy, because we’re all married, happily, or at least not unhappily, and anyhow who knows what “happily” really means, because, let’s face it, it changes from day to day depending how much you’re suffering due to big things (loss of job, loss of mind, loss of faith) and little ones (loss of house keys), but the real problem with the game Sharon S. has proposed is the available personnel, because we work for an actuarial consulting company and the actuarial profession tends to attract – and I’ll be blunt here – boring men, which we know is mean but true and besides these guys make twice as much money as we do, and we know from dull-grey experience that any so-called holiday party at the office will be filled with competitive comparisons of actuarial exam scores and estimates of when the Social Security Trust Fund will go broke, so you can see why Sharon S. said “Who could you stand to kiss” and not, for example, “Who could get you to leave your husband by raising an eyebrow,” and it’s not that we’re all that spectacular ourselves, but we have standards, so it quickly comes down to three actuaries and one tech guy, and Sharon S. picks the tech guy, who isn’t bad except that nobody has ever seen him smile and he won’t make eye contact, but, as she points out, he has good lips – “not juicy, but acceptable” – and then it’s my turn and I choose Todd, which makes the other two go, “ugh,” because he always greets us with “Hell-ooo, Ladies!” but I choose him because I feel sorry for him and I know how grateful he’d be, and I would be his fantasy woman for months, and then it’s Sharon W.’s turn and she can’t decide and then out of nowhere she picks the proofreader with the damaged face and the wife who has MS, and Sharon S. and I are like, “Pity kiss?” and she’s like, “No, I think suffering makes you passionate,” and I’m like, “Are you in high school?” and then we go back to our work, but I can’t stop thinking about suffering, and how much of it there is, even in our little office, and I think, if you were suffering, if your heart was slowly, slowly breaking, what if there was someone who would be willing to get close enough to you to place their lips on yours and leave them there for a while, maybe even close their eyes and hum a little in appreciation of the moment, in appreciation of you as a kisser, and that kiss might not change anything in your life, except to be something to think back on from time to time, to think: someone saw me, and came close to me, and pressed their lips against mine, and it wasn’t enough, not nearly enough, but it was something.

Nancy Connors is a poet and writer who lives in New York’s Hudson Valley. Her work has appeared most recently in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Stonecoast Review and failbetter. She teaches at The Writers Studio in New York, where she is also a student in Philip Schultz’s master class. Facebook: Nancy Connors Twitter: @NancyConnors1 Instagram: newyorknancy