Kissin’ Cousins

We rarely got to see our relatives; they all lived over a thousand miles away. As a result I never became close to many of them, most were strangers to me, people I’d see maybe once a year for a few days during my childhood, less as time went on. The last time I visited any of them was twenty-five years ago. And people change over time, you know.


But there were a few relatives I came like a great deal, fewer still I came to love and treasure. One of those was my cousin.


I remember how filled with joy and excitement I would be when we’d pull up to their house. I’d be bouncing up and down in my seat, looking out the window, knowing that I would be seeing her again. She had long black hair which ran all the way her waist, straight and shimmering in the Western sun,, and her skin was a dusky tan, almost an earthy color. Her eyes were brown as coal, almost black, with long thick lashes set above a cute upturned nose. How she got those looks when both her parents were pale whites is beyond me – and it didn’t matter. I loved her. I remember us pulling up in their white span of concrete driveway one hot summer afternoon, the first visit of the season, and hearing the screeching howl of a poorly played violin emanating from the house. “She’s taking violin lessons,” my mother explained as we got out of the hot, stuffy car. I took off running, and before I’d even reached the house, the sounds had stopped and she’d raced out, smiling from ear to ear, her violin in one hand, the bow in the other, and her dark eyes dancing with happiness and affection. For she loved me every bit as much as I loved her. I don’t know why we were so precious to one another – I just know that we were. As close as coattails, a snug fitting comfort when we were together.


We’d spend hours exploring in the basement of her house – playing pool on the crowded pool table, digging through the toys. I remember one: the original clapping monkey who held the cymbals in his hands. And then after awhile we’d get bored with the toys and we would start kissing and hugging and doing all those things kissing cousins do, and a few proper cousins would not dream of. This was not just experimentation, not just kids at play – we were passionate about each other, telling each other all our secrets, our troubles, our sorrows and concerns. Sometimes we kissed open mouthed, and how well I remember her body pressed against mine – both of us young and eager and her soft lips embracing mine. She knew I was having sex with the boys back home, but that didn’t bother her; indeed, being children, neither of us understood that was bad, nor the possible consequences to come of it. All we wanted was each other to be happy; the other one was our biggest concern – concern about each other, being with each other, and sharing the world between us, being in each another’s company – and knowing, knowing deep down in our secret hearts, even hidden to us, that it was not going to be so. She would have to stay; I would have to go. No matter what we did, the destiny of our parting was always so, so clear – we always knew: this cannot be forever, and it never will.


I remember once we visited some relatives who I didn’t know. I think I was eight. It was a big party, probably a family reunion, and as is so often typical with such events, the children went off to play on their own while the grownups stood around and talked, ignoring them. During this reunion a group of girls went down into a dark basement, and after awhile, invited us boys to come in.


The lights were off and the girls were all lined up against a damp brick wall, their pants dresses either pulled up or their pants pulled down. There were about a half dozen of them. They had us boys seeking around in the dark, ‘feeling’ them, touching their private parts, but there was only one I was seeking, only one I was looking for. My heart was crying out for her. Because at these events so often the “boys will be boys” and “girls will be girls” philosophy reigned, and each gender would stick with their own – meaning the boys played the boy games with the boys, and the girls played with theirs. I didn’t like this. I only wanted to be with one. My kissing cousin, my confidant, my lover and true friend. Going from one to another, I touched them all as they bid us – them giggling and laughing as we do – until I found her in the darkness. Touching her wet softness ‘down there’, she embraced me like a lover, and I embraced her – hugging her tight until the girls, all giggling, hiked up their panties and pulled up their pants, shooing us boys away. I don’t know why they did that; but then again, there was only one who held my interest, the one who had captured my heart. My summertime friend and summertime girl. The one I wanted to marry from then on.


Her family came down to visit us one summer when I was ten; her mother complaining about the heat, humidity, dirt and bugs, until they found us, me and her, in bed. I can’t remember much – I was on top of her, we were two kids clumsily attempting to make love for the first time; neither of us knew how, we only knew we wanted to do it, and do it with each other. It wasn’t about sex; our hearts were filled with love for one another. We could see nothing wrong about it – after all, we both knew we loved each other, and loved each other dearly – beyond words, like I said. I guess her mom and mine came in, interrupting us before we’d even got properly started – we hadn’t even gotten our clothes off yet, I think – and I vaguely recalled shocked yelling and being roughly snatched from the bed, our confusion at their outrage and anger at us and our expression of love. There must have been some kind of bad punishment where everything turns black. I know what that means – nothing good, and I suspect I was beaten. They never came to visit again, though we continued making those long trips west. It breaks my heart sometime – even now.


I remember one hot summer day when I was eleven her and I were sitting in her parent’s metal storage shed. The doors were shut, the heat stifling, and my brother was running around outside. I wanted to make love with her. She knew how and by now I knew, too – or at least a little bit about it. But my brother kept jumping up, trying to peep in the windows, she decided that we should wait – perhaps the next summer. To this day I sometimes curse my brother and his meddlesome nosy ways, for I’m sure if we had, it would have been a moment I’d cherish and treasure, even if she was my cousin, despite what society says is wrong. That didn’t matter to me, for this was a girl I loved with all my heart and soul — more than anyone else of the opposite sex that I had ever loved before. It had always been that way, my love for her. And she knew I had been having sex – being molested, if you will – for years, but with her my desire was different. It was more pure, based on a deep long abiding love instead of purely sex. If ever there was a soul mate, she was my first one. But then again, I believe a person can have several soul mates, for there are many souls and we have probably lived and died a thousand lifetimes. But your chance of meeting them on this earth is a rare event, and sadly, only happens a few times in one’s life – if you are lucky.


Time passed, we moved overseas, and I didn’t see her again for years. I’d hear stories about her from my mother – how she got married, then divorced a few months later (her husband deciding he was gay) – and that nearly broke my heart: both her marriage and her unfortunate fate. She had problems with drugs early on, and hanging out with all the wrong friends. She got married a couple other times, and began putting on weight. She bore children but never held a job, or if she did, it was never long. She fell from the list of ‘favored’ relatives in my mom’s opinion, and onto my mom’s ‘shit list’ where she has stayed ever since (in her, my mom’s, opinion).


I went out west once when I was in my early twenties, just to go and see her more than anyone else (though I’d gone to see them as well). She’d gotten married again, and I met her new husband Mitch – a nice guy, but they were already having problems – most of them caused by her. But once we were together it was as if we’d never been apart. Oh, we refrained from kissing the way we had, but we hugged and by the sparkle in her eyes and mine, we knew. She opened up her heart to me, and me to her, discussing the old times and the new. I remember us sitting in a park, her huge and voluminous, but her hair and eyes just the way I remembered them, beautiful to me. Strange – I have troubles emotionally bonding with obese people, but with her it never made a difference. I was sad to see her young and beautiful body was gone, swallowed by fat and a nervous and trouble driven appetite. I guess I just loved her too much for that. (My emotional troubles stem from other causes; personally I know what it is like to be overweight, having been there myself for some years. Not so much now.)


She ended up getting divorced again, became a classic welfare mom, bearing more and more children, until she had a pack of them. Then she went to jail for dealing drugs – again and again and again. She has lived the latter part of her life more behind bars than out of them, and she currently resides in a half-way house near the last prison where she was stationed. She does not do well on her own; she loves her kids (now all grown up) with a fiery passion, but she cannot shake her habits or live in an unstructured setting. I talked to her some years ago – about twenty – when my own marriage was facing stormy times due to my eldest stepdaughter. She advised me wisely, us falling into our old pattern on the phone, able to talk about our hearts and desires.


I still hear about her, mostly through the prejudiced eyes of my disapproving mother. According to my mom, my cousin was also deeply in love with her father, so much so that she wanted him in all the ways a woman can want a man, even as a young girl, despite it’s incestuous implications. Though I don’t know if he ever gave in (my mom says no, as if she could know), it apparently caused a lot of friction between her and her mother, both competing for the same man. Perhaps that is why she went through so many husbands – she was looking for a man just like the man she loved, her own father. Right or wrong, I don’t know. But I do know this: the heart knows no moral bounds. When it comes to love, and the love is strong enough, there is no wrong, there is only that bitter-sweet longing, that purity that knows no bounds. Such I think is the love between soulmates, no matter who or what they are. A love that transcends the laws of man.


If you can’t tell by now, I still love her. I often think about making that long, long drive out West, just to see her again, despite our circumstances, despite the amount of time which has passed. If we were to meet again, I know that we’d be able to talk openly about our hearts and loves, our trials and troubles, just like we always did. I don’t know why that is so; what it is about each other that brings this quality out in us, only that it has always been there, ever since the beginning. Sometimes I think perhaps in a previous life we weren’t just cousins. That we were made for each other in some magical, mystical way, but time, distance, and circumstances prevented what should have been from happening. I don’t know.


I just know that no matter the passing of time, the events in our lives, the changing of our ways and bodies, there is one thing that still endures.


And that is our love.


(Julie died October 2, 2011 – just before our father’s birthday. And we’re gonna miss her… forever sad – until we meet her on angel’s wings – that will make us glad ….and we will be in heaven with her, meeting once again . . . and I miss her.)