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  • Mouth to Mouth
  • Ch’oe Su-ch’ŏl (bio)
    Translated by Bruce Fulton (bio) and Ju-Chan Fulton (bio)

Traffic came to a stop. There on the pavement lay a man, a paramedic performing CPR on him. The paramedic switched to artificial respiration, placing his mouth over the man’s and blowing vigorously enough to make his chest rise. I imagined a guy trying desperately to tongue open his dead lover’s locked lips. A cruel, heart-wrenching fate. But what if the dead lover lurched back to life and bit down on his tongue?

Mouth to mouth. Living lips on dead. Breath extinguished. Eros and Thanatos.

The paramedic straightened and looked blankly at the body. I wondered if he regretted having kissed a dead man.

Traffic was moving again—until the next stop light. Red light suspended from the heavens, red lips, a death kiss, a death wish, the sensuality of death. The light turned green. Hello. I floored the gas pedal.

There’s an element of thievery to kissing, a pilfering of lips. Kiss thieves thirst for kisses but lack patience. They chuck the hassle of scoring kisses and resort to sneaking them instead. Or they submit to the lure of deviance.

Once you’re on the deviant path, kosher kissing will never taste the same. For thrills you can’t beat a stolen kiss. [End Page 255]

Masters of stolen kissing will tell you that circumstances legitimize thievery—slack mouths invite kisses. Brazen types, their ambush successful and the victim bug-eyed in shock, will say, “It’s the least my lips can do when a stranger makes eyes at me.”

There are those who enjoy kissing sleeping beauties. What could be sweeter than getting a smooch when you’re half asleep, they’ll ask rhetorically. And because they half hope the princess will remain asleep and half hope she’ll wake up, they insist they’re innocent of thievery.

How do they manage the elusive she who is all too quick to slip through their fingers, who is impossible to net? They sting her with a kiss. But these types aren’t satisfied with the lips; they want more. They lust for the tongue inside the mouth, the air from the lungs. One good tongue deserves another, but always at the risk of a bite.

A poet once sang, “Stealing a sweet kiss, I brought my soul to your lips by mistake.” A tongue-bitten kiss thief might sing it thus: “Stealing a sweet kiss, I left my tongue inside your mouth by mistake.”

Allow me finally to cite the calculating kiss thief, he who wears camouflage and deceives the other. I confess, the examples I have paraded before you come from my own experience. Once, in fact, under cover of darkness I gave my friend’s lover a frenzied kiss. The three of us were on a trip, and sharing a room, and we were all asleep. The lover mistook me for my friend, the rustling sound awoke my friend, and my friend found out. It was obvious to him that she and I were up to more than just kissing, and he turned a deaf ear to her protestations. Sad to say, I had the stuffing beaten out of me, and the two of them split up.

A few days later she called me, and we went for a drive along the river. I was racing along when suddenly she unbuckled her seat belt and came at me with a kiss. I was so startled I tried to push her away—she was blocking my view. But she planted her right knee [End Page 256] on my left thigh, locked my head in her hands, and nuzzled my lips until she got her tongue inside my mouth.

So there I was, hanging on to the wheel, unable to see left or right, unable to brake or accelerate, the image of that artificially respiring man dancing before my eyes. I was hell-bent for death, and death at that moment felt like her slick tongue. She was the naiad Salmakis embracing me, Hermaphroditus. It was a near-death kiss!

The good news is, she released...


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pp. 255-257
Launched on MUSE
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