A lot of people talk about their FIRST kiss – but not a lot of us talk about our first REAL kiss. My FIRST kiss was something almost out of a movie. We’d partied the night before, she’d asked if it was okay to stay over. I pretended to be nonchalant when I said “yes” – and also pretended to be nonchalant when she took her toothbrush out of her bag. She knew I’d say yes. When I woke, she was looking into my eyes and a soft summer breeze was blowing in from outside, gently billowing the curtains. She smiled, I smiled back, and she kissed me.
My FIRST kiss was memorable, sure – but my first REAL kiss takes the cake.
I’d been hiking a mountain trail called The Beehive. I did it mostly because I was scared of heights and I wanted to prove to myself that I could move into discomfort and face it head on, no fear. I was determined. I drove myself to Bar Harbor, listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival with the windows down, screaming at the top of my lungs to pump myself up.
When I neared Beehive, I saw it rising from the forest like an obelisk – sheer rock face with iron rungs sprouting from its rocky outcroppings. It was not a trail for the faint of heart. As I parked, readied my hiking backpack, and laced my shoes – I gazed at it like a fighter eyes his opponent before a match.
The trek to Beehive is short and steep, and I grunted as I made my way past other hikers. By the time I’d reached the rocky base, I was covered in a light sheen of sweat. Ignoring it, and ignoring the mosquitos and black flies, I began my ascent, my heart pounding as I read the sign.
WARNING: THIS TRAIL FOLLOWS A NEARLY VERTICAL ROUTE WITH EXPOSED CLIFFS THAT REQUIRES CLIMBING ON IRON RUNGS. FALLS ON THIS MOUNTAIN HAVE RESULTED IN SERIOUS INJURY AND DEATH.
I swallowed hard, gritted my teeth, cracked my fingers, stretched my calves, and took the first step.
The ascent itself wasn’t as bad as I thought, initially. I kept myself busy mentally as my legs dangled over the tops of trees, me trusting in a rusty iron rung to hold my body weight. I took a deep breath in and didn’t exhale until I traversed the length of a creaky wooden plank through which I could spot the ravine floor. Certain points had me shaking with fear as the slightest misstep could send me tumbling below and into oblivion.
That’s when I noticed a hand stretch out toward mine. At first it startled me, and I flinched involuntarily and almost tumbled backward. It was a woman’s hand, and her fingers grasped at the strap on my backpack as I momentarily fumbled. When I looked at the woman’s face, it was shrouded in blonde hair and her hazel eyes grinned at me. She was wearing leggings, a sport shirt, and a bulky backpack.
“You must be new to Beehive,” she said. Her voice was gravelly and pleasing to my ear. I thought to myself that she should be a singer, if she wasn’t already, but it was just a thought I kept to myself.
“Yeah, I guess you could say that. Not a fan of heights.”
She laughed. “What?!”
“Yeah, I said,” clinging to the cliff face. “I know. Crazy right?”
“My name’s Corinna.” She said, extending her hand.
“Joe,” I said. I shook her hand, and gazed out over the vast expanse of air before us – just inches from where our feet stood together, heels against the rock face. Below us, maybe a mile away, I could see people on the beach. They looked like ants but the ocean was beautiful, and the waves pushed forward and pulled back from the rocks as I calmed myself, breathing in a steady cadence I’d practiced in years past to battle my anxiety.
“Well, Joe,” she said. “You were a bit shaky, so I felt like I had to give you an assist. Hope that doesn’t offend you.”
“Nah, I’m pretty easygoing,” I said. “I just had to do this, y’know?”
“I get it,” she said. “What brought you up here?”
“I just had to do it, to prove to myself I could. Sometimes, I really don’t think I can push forward anymore and things like this remind me that I can.”
“It’s not so bad once you get most of the way,” she said. “It gives you perspective.”
I nodded for a minute and breathed in the cool air to ease my burning lungs. My sweat had begun to cool with the mountain wind.
“What brings you up here?” I asked her. “Are you a park ranger or something?”
“No,” she said, laughing. “But thanks for thinking that. That’s sweet. No, Joe-who’s-scared-of-heights – I guess I came up here for some of the same reasons you did, maybe.”
“Not the exact same,” she said. “But I get you.”
“Well, you probably saved me from falling off this mountain,” I said, half-joking.
She laughed. “You seem like a good guy,” she said. “Let me tell you something. Come closer.”
I moved closer to her and she grasped each side of my head with her hands and moved her own head closer.
“What’re you…” I began, before she kissed me on the lips. I’d been kissed before, all those years before – which was my first kiss. But my first REAL kiss was on the top of that mountain. Our lips pressed together and at first I resisted out of confusion but then kissed back. Before I knew it, it was over and as my eyes opened in lazy bliss, I momentarily forgot where I was.
Corinna was smiling, slipping goggles over her face.
“What?” Was all I managed before Corinna leaped from the cliff face.
“FOR GOOD LUCK,” she shouted, as she plummeted off the edge and sailed out into nothingness. I looked in disbelief as she fell, holding my breath. Finally, I saw her pull a cord and the bulky backpack she wore erupted into a small parachute – causing her to lift momentarily and sail back toward the ground, toward the beach, over the treetops, and away from me.
Corinna never looked back, and I never saw her or heard from her again – but I felt that kiss as I made my way down the mountain, and I still feel it to this day.