Excuse me while I kiss the sky
by Kevin Murphy
The year of the Summer of Love didn’t even afford me a kiss. After eight years of yearning I had arrived: I had a new habit and a new name: Brother Bernard. I chose both over pretty frocks and the love of a good woman. I loved the life, but celibate throughout my teens, did I really know the choices? Before taking vows, I left to discern my true vocation.
Over almost a year I chased the back of two pretty heads. I couldn’t get a look in. Now I had a date with a real woman. Lizzy Lafferty was a looker (her parents had not anticipated a lisper for a daughter), but possibly fed up with handsome guys hitting on her she picked me. The Super – the flicks – what to see I have no recall – at the time it was of no consequence either.
My coaches in the courting code were three younger sisters and even the thirteen year old had tips. I don’t recall any sartorial suggestions – things were on the turn. I had my last ever short-back-and-sides a month after I left the monastery. The look to go with it was a sports jacket and drainpipes with a cravat. ‘Nice’. Jimi Hendrix had intervened – I probably wore a tie dyed shirt and the buff cords that I had carefully flared by the insertion of a tapestry chevron.
As indicated by her formidable mother, Lizzy’s formal costume did not inhibit her lovely bottom from sashaying in the pleated skirt, or her ample bosom from challenging the buttons of her blouse. My siblings’ pep-talk joined Lucy and her Diamonds in a purple haze.
She resisted but I insisted on buying our tickets. I was then strapped into the electric chair for three hours: my heart pounded; my hands were clamped; sweat dripped; toes tensed; teeth clenched; the screen fixed my head. My sole point of vision was the corner of my eye. Lizzie moved occasionally. I saw her flash a smile at me and I know I moved my lips. Her hand moved from her lap but, elbow contacting elbow, my heart shot through my brain and her hand returned. My mind failed against the matter of the restraints on my arm – I must put it round her. No good.
‘Good film wasn’t it?’ we lied. Walking for the bus, she relieved the hand nearest me of her bag. The Code! The girls hadn’t told me that. The ‘Z’ was all I memorised: ‘When you get to her door, you can kiss her; if she lingers, you can try tongues; if she lets you, you can ask her out again – she’s your girlfriend.’
At the Bus Stop I was the look-out of a desert island. On the top deck my hands were jammed between my knees – my knees. The short path to her door was across a desert. But her door was not opened – she was. Forty years later that kiss is the best I ever had.