Her breath was sweet.
I had always wondered what that phrase meant when I read it in very old English poems or heard it in the hypnotic lyrics of Celtic music. Why, particularly, would the lover mention the fair maiden's breath? Certainly, it must make a kiss more pleasant, but who ever heard of truly sweet breath, to taste and to inhale the scent of?
I was destined to discover.
When I met the one I had no desire at first to kiss. It was no chemical attraction to the tall, quite lean man with no facial hair and light brown eyes that contrasted strangely with his black hair. (Black, I called it. He claimed it was brown, and that the sun clearly revealed its true shade to the discerning eye.)
Though I did not feel the instant magnetic pull so religiously touted in every silly romance book, I played with him, played with my words, kept him guessing about my still emerging feelings. Or so I thought. Now I realize he saw the game and the individual maneuvers. He saw the story I was projecting as I rode the wave of my thoughts onto our patchy experiences. For the most part he was unflappable. Not so for me. I was trying to invent and choreograph the story, reacting to my own dictation.
We held hands, and I remember it well, an important moment. Curious, no doubt, by the progressive standards of "romance" now. Where, alas, is the I want to hold your hand experience anymore? Barely worth a mention on the way to more intimate things, perhaps skipped over all together, all the subtlety of romance, the slight but jolting touch, the sensation of fingers gliding against fingers, the arm loosely around the waist - all in death throes in a hyper-sexualized but romantically insensitive world. But I remember we held hands. We were teased about it, because we had so stoutly asserted that very day that we were mere friends.
The first kiss happened shortly after, only he kissed my upper back, because I turned my mouth away, unsure. Too nervous, I didn't notice the taste or perfume of him yet.
I can't pinpoint it at all, but during one of our kisses while we were dating, I realized: his breath is sweet. Not the breath from his mouth but from his nostrils. As he exhaled with his mouth on mine, the scent of his breath was sweet, entirely unique, incredibly alluring. And I knew what those long-dead composers meant. It wasn't an empty idealized statement that had no basis in reality, such as the exhausted we made love all night line in a thousand different love songs from heavy metal to easy listening. This particular vignette of love I had experienced with my own tall, dark, handsome man.
During the many kisses that we shared thereafter, did he wonder why I sometimes lingered, my lips locked on his, not moving against his own but pressing there firmly as I breathed deep?
His breath was sweet.