“Do you remember everyone you’ve ever kissed?”
We were sitting around the fire, which sent its flames up from the dry driftwood to spread light past us to the tents behind. It illuminated the hazel copse a little way off, but was beaten by the darkness before reaching the waves that softly washed up on the shore, thirty yards away.
Just the two of us, Sinéad and I, sat beside the fire. Sarah was in the dunes, and John and Bill had gone to the town to get more drink. We’d all thought that we’d have been drunk already, but we weren’t yet. We nearly were—at least I was—but not quite enough. The two lads had decided to walk the mile to the pub and get a dozen more cans of beer and a bottle of Jameson, and some lemonade for the two girls. Us men were fairly sure that by the time we’d finished the beers we’d be ready for the whiskey straight, or with just a little fresh, cool water from the stream beside the copse. It gurgled in the silence behind me, down a few rocks into a wide brackish pool that drained slowly down the beach at low tides, meandering through the sand.
I watched Sinéad looking back at me as she thought about the question. She was beautiful. I could see that in the firelight. Why couldn’t I see that during the day? Was it the night? Don’t be stupid, Derek, I told myself. It’s the booze! And the knowledge that you’re sharing your tent with two lads.
Still, she was beautiful. But she was better than just attractive— she was smart and funny and all those adjectives that people throw around when describing the people they fancy. She was one of my best friends—definitely my best female friends. That's why she was there, of course, because she was not just a pretty face. Yet that was a pity right now, when all I wanted was someone sexy.
“Yes," she answered. “I remember everyone. But then, I haven’t kissed very many people. Only twelve.”
I looked back at her eyes, my own betraying my surprise. “Really? You have only ever kissed twelve people?”
Sinéad laughed softly and nodded. “Yes! And I knew them all before I kissed them. Does that surprise you so much? Why do you ask anyway? Can you remember all those thousands of girls that you have kissed?” She asked this in a gently mocking way, and I blushed a little, though probably not enough for her to notice in the light from the fire.
I looked into the flames for a moment, then met her eyes again. “I haven’t kissed thousands of girls! And I am not that surprised about you only kissing twelve guys, though I am curious as to how that is,” I smiled, wondering how the hell it was possible. “But, I have to admit that I don’t remember every girl I’ve kissed. I don’t remember kissing some of them that I know I have kissed. It depends on the circumstances of the kiss. Sometimes I was fairly drunk.”
She laughed, and I laughed with her. I took a swig of beer and she did the same, then I looked at the fire again, not really wanting to look straight at her as I continued. “Sometimes though, I see a girl, and she looks so familiar, and yet I’m sure that I don’t know her, and she gives no indication that she knows me, or that I seem familiar to her. Or sometimes I see a girl who I don’t recognise or think I have met before, but who looks at me like she knows me or should know me, and I just wonder, if maybe a few years ago, I wasn’t holding her on a dance floor and kissing her. It’s really strange.”
When I raised my can again she was still looking intently at me. “Everybody forgets people. People don’t stay looking the same all their lives, so you are going to not recognise people, eventually, and if you didn’t know them all that well in the beginning, you're going to forget them sooner. I’ve forgotten lots of people I used to see around. I haven’t forgotten the people I have kissed because I knew them quite well, and I still know some of them very well. Why I haven’t kissed people I didn’t know is none of your business, really. But to be honest, it just happened that way: I was never not going out with someone for very long. But anyway, there have been lots of men I knew well and didn’t kiss, and I still remember them. Kissing doesn’t have that much to do with your memory—even if you think that you should remember the ones you kissed more than the ones you didn’t.”
I said nothing, but nodded and took another swig of beer, raising it high and draining the last of its contents into my mouth. She again took my cue and drank.
“What if the people you think you know are girls that you would have liked to kiss, but never did?”