Kiss for Six Seconds | Opinion

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“We’re supposed to kiss for six seconds,” Ray told me after reading an article.

We’ve kissed three times in a row for nearly 50 years, morning and night, and often in between. In our early years, the kisses included tongue, which led to sex. No longer, but we did start letting the third kiss linger for six seconds. It has helped each of us focus on the kiss and one another.

Lately, I’m spending more time focussing on everything. The other night, Ray and Sebastian were both snoring softly, the dog sprawled between us. I spent some time observing them, as I now observe the feel of Ray’s lips, and I was touched deeply with gratitude. I’m both in the scene and taking it in as a movie director might. 

Because I have the time and inclination, I’ve been reflecting on the people who have influenced my life. I learned a couple of days ago that one of the stars of my life’s primary players just died of a heart attack. “No, it can’t be,” I thought. The truth of it was too much to take in at once. 

Lisa was my direct report at City Hall in Boston in the early 1980s, when I was Mayor Kevin White’s Liaison to the gay community. She was super smart, had a great laugh, and was a good mentor on how things are done in politics. She and her husband Joe spent many Thanksgivings with us when we lived in Gloucester. Since then, we’ve called each other on Thanksgiving every year for over 30 years.

Six seconds of focus. How I wish I had learned at an earlier age how to be aware and at the moment. My life has been rich and full, but I’ve only been present to much of it in retrospect. We got Lisa and Joe on ice skates for our winter parties, and they in turn later introduced their adopted children to it in the Boston Commons. We often played host to the people in our lives, so I measured success by how good a time our friends had, rather than observe us all having fun together. 

A week or so ago, I tried to imagine what I would do if Ray died before me. I saw myself closing down, not answering phone calls or returning e-mails for a while. How could anyone understand how I felt having lost the major source of my joy, comfort, security, and meaning for all of my adult life? So, when we heard about Lisa’s sudden death, I sent Joe an e-mail telling him there are no words of comfort to offer, but that we’re here for him. 

Luckily, even though I wasn’t at the moment with the awareness of a six-second kiss with Lisa, I have many really happy memories of working and playing with her. I wasn’t prepared for her death, but I’m grateful for having had her in my life.


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