It hadn’t been her first kiss. Far from it. Penelope Lyn had kissed and been kissed more times than she could count. She had tried adding up the kissers one time, but decided to quit when she began to feel like a slut. “Never mind,” she had told herself. “Some things you just don’t need to know.”
But this kiss – this most recent kiss – felt like a first kiss to Penelope Lyn. “Or at least it felt like a first kiss should feel,” she wrote in her journal. “Nothing before that kiss really matters any more.”
The Kiss had happened the last day of a recent trip to Jamaica. It had been a chance encounter and Penelope Lyn was pretty sure she would never see him again. She relished the heart-achingly delicious – if a bit cheesy – romance of the story.
She was now camping with a friend. It was chilly October, late at night. And after splitting a bottle of some Spanish Red, her friend had fallen asleep next to her in the tent. Now, using her phone light and cozy in her sleeping bag, Penelope Lyn was trying to recapture her experience of The Kiss with pen and paper, hoping to save and savor the magic later.
Penelope Lyn never had much luck with religion. Her father was, as he called it, “more-or-less agnostic,” and her mother, having been raised more-or-less Methodist, had taken her to church off and on as a child. Penelope Lyn had never been baptized. She had wondered about it. From what she had read and imagined, baptism seemed like it could be a good idea. She had thought about going to some church somewhere and making it happen. Thought about it. Likewise, she had heard some of her evangelical friends talk about being born again. That concept also intrigued her, but sounded a bit too messy. Finally, however, neither baptism nor rebirth was a big priority.
So, there in the tent, accompanied by the mystic cacophony of cricket and mountain stream, tree frog and owl, cicada and distant dog howl, Penelope Lyn detailed her memory of The Kiss in her ever-so-precious diary in which was chronicled much of her personal life since she was 15.
And maybe it was her deep reflection on The Kiss, maybe it was the wine, maybe it was the smell of the forest, maybe it was the barely visible ground mist, which, undulating just above the forest floor, slipped its wispy tendrils into their tent. Or maybe it was the full moon, which – though mostly hidden by a canopy of red oak and poplar – illuminated everything with mystic moon mottle. Whatever the trigger, Penelope Lyn felt a tsunami of euphoria rise up inside her and flood every limb, every lash, every ligament, every lip, every lung, liver, larynx, leg, lap, lumbar, lobe and lymph node. She felt as if she were unmistakably rising up out of the tent into the clear, cold night air.
“What is going on?” she whispered. “Whatever it is, don’t let it stop!”
She could never say how long the experience lasted. Nanno-second or thousand years. But as the wave of rapture subsided, Penelope Lyn felt herself filled with a peace beyond any peace she had ever sensed. She finally understood what her childhood minister meant by, “The peace that passes understanding.” And, as she felt that peace flow through every molecule of her body and soul, all she could think to say was, “Thank you. Thank you, friend lying next to me. Thank you, gurgling stream. Thank you , crickets. Thank you, moon. Thank you, Mom. Thank you, Kiss. Thank you, Life. Thank you, God.”
Lying there in the stillness of the forest, a thought weaseled its way into her brain and whispered that maybe, just maybe she had somehow just been baptized and maybe even born again right there in the woods without the help of religion, preacher, doctrine or church.
She fell asleep clutching her diary with a smile gracing her well-kissed lips and a bliss gracing her well-blessed heart.