My tongue keeps pushing through my teeth. The bottom right side of my lip is swollen and the stinging is constantly there.
It's New Year's Eve and I'm at my friend Andy's house for a potluck. We've all decided to get dressed up even though we're just staying in because we need to make this night different from every other night of our lives. There's eight of us, five guys and three girls, and we're in the kitchen. Some off to the side where the table is set up. Others are coming in and out of the fringes from the living room, chatting, laughing, twirling around in silence in our own heads and thoughts. The smell of salmon being fried perfumes the air. I say perfumes because it's not quite making me hungry nor is it causing me to lose my appetite. It's acting as the scent of the night hanging above us and around us and beneath us. In these last hours of another year gone by, we are all tied together. The pan sizzles, crackles and hisses, and Elvis serenades us with Christmas tunes.
I don't remember how it happened but it happened. "Shit. I bit my lip," I yelp and cry with the pain of a whining child. This becomes a theme for the next hour. A dark Hungarian wine has put me under a spell. All my senses seem to be giggling. Every part of me is creeping up and trying to burst out but I'm trying to stifle it all back. I try to resist the urge to spin on my toes. I try to resist the urge of the corners of my mouth turning up without a reason. I try to remember not to bite my lip but my senses are in a state of runaway glee. My mind doesn't have the faintest idea that my lip has already begun to swell so it's inevitable I bite it again. And again. And again. And at least five more times after that all with the same exclamatory point: "Shit. I bit my lip again!"
A kiss means many different things to different people. In it's most basic definition, a kiss is the act of two people putting their lips against each other's. But who are we kidding. Most of the time, a kiss is more than just a physical act. It represents something. Sometimes a kiss can represent the whole world. Or a celebratory moment like when the clock strikes midnight on new year's day. Or a reminder of the love and affection you hold for another person. And other times a kiss is like that first taste of cool water on those days where you run around for who knows how long without a drop of liquid in your mouth. You're hurrying past strangers on the sidewalk. You stop to chat inanely to routine people about what you did last night. You're rushing to class. Or to work. You're panting to catch a bus. You're in a room with no windows. You can't breathe. The air is dry and stale. You need something clear and crisp. You need water. And when you finally get it... Sometimes a kiss is like that.
Days have passed since new year's. The bite on my lip left a cut and the cut has developed into a canker sore. Actually, it's developed into four canker sores. Two enormous ones that eventually meld together and two smaller ones right underneath, all hanging out on my lip like one of those annoying dishevelled-looking families in the mall that don't know how to keep their kids or themselves in order. I feel like I'm tripping over the simplest sentences. I'm not quite drooling but I do feel like I have a facial disfigurement even though it's hardly noticeable to the people around me. "Oh yeah. I can kind of see it. Your lip is a little red," says my cheeky friend Mike in the first class of the new semester.
Ten days of the new year have passed and the canker sores are still there. Still rubbing themselves against my teeth. Uncontrollably of course because they're right there and I can't possibly spend the whole of my days with my bottom lip constantly hanging out. I have to have self-control when it comes to complaining about the pain because the pain is always there. Even something as simple as brushing my teeth has become a new experience. I have to hold my lip down so I can actually get to the teeth that the sore is rubbing against. Trickles of red stream out of my mouth along with the dissolved toothpaste. Throughout the day, blood, germs, complete infestation is manifesting itself against absolutely everything all from this sore.
It started with a small bite. And then I got drunk. So it got worse. I didn't think anything of it until it became a constant pain that I had to deal with. Rinsing it out with salt water didn't help. The salt numbs the pain for a bit, provides temporary relief, but all I really want to do is fall asleep. And at the back of my mind, for some reason, I'm still thinking of a kiss. How could anyone want to kiss me with a disgusting infection on my lip? More importantly, how could I possibly want to kiss anyone with this pain throbbing? No one can see this pain until I show it to them. Expose the open wounds. Explain a situation of drunk merriment where the hurt I've caused myself is unintentional but it hurts anyway. And even when I expose it, how silly do I feel to make such a big deal out of such a small matter.
My lip doesn't sting anymore. But the room still feels dry.