Kaleidoscope Kiss

I didn’t expect to see him at the party. He was older than us, this tall handsome man with the dazzling smile. Like a dancer, he moved through our underground culture, teaching everyone the new steps, peddling the new music, the new clothes, the new ideas.

We should have run, I suppose. But we couldn’t. We were his flock of baby lambs, following him, longing to drink from his well of western culture.

That night the Illinois summer rolled out in all her glory: a magic carpet of starlit skies, sultry clouds of fireflies, a thick sticky humidity that drove us all outside.

Smoke wafted, strong and pungent, from one cluster of teenagers to the next.

My skin chilled as my best friend and I walked over dewy grass, crickets competing with the dark, pulsing drone of In A Gadda Da Vida. Midnight blue shadows disguised faces. Lawn chairs sprawled over a gentle hill.

It was there that this mesmerizing creature of the night swooped my friend into his arms, caught her in his trap for the evening.

She curled on his lap, drank kisses mixed with red wine. His pretty lips curved in a grin and when he spoke everyone listened. He was more experienced than we were.

He was married.

He told a story that burned in my 16-year-old brain.

He was lying beside his wife, he said, caressing her swollen, pregnant belly one evening. And then, without warning, he placed a tiny tab of LSD on her lips. They both poised, waiting, this kaleidoscope kiss pressed against her lips, this deadly temptation.

Like a baby bird, she opened her mouth. Expectant. Eager.

He held the tab, just beyond the reach of her tongue.

Was there a quiet cry in that moment? A silent scream from her womb? Did the heavens rip, from top to bottom; did swords flash as dark sinister shadows fought shimmering white beings?

He held the tab above his wife’s mouth, ignored all the warnings of the maimed, the armless, the malformed. He teased her until she begged him to give it to her, and then he took the temptation away. He took the acid himself.

He ended the story with a laugh and none of us could tell whether he was the hero or the villain. He leaned down in that instant, enveloped my friend in another wine-drenched kiss.

The worst part of it all was that, despite the awkward hush that fell over us, his tale didn’t diminish his beauty. It didn’t loosen his hold.

We all sat poised like baby birds with our mouths open.

Waiting. Hoping.

Longing for his kaleidoscope kiss.

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