The kiss

Today I cycled to Woodinville along the Burke-Gilman trail for the first time in months. It was a sunny day and the trail was busy. Not far from where I saw the Japanese tourists who wouldn’t smile (see The occidental weakness of smiling), beside the trail, on a bench, two men were kissing. While this isn’t something one sees frequently, it isn’t something worth writing home about either. We live in a free society—for now—and people can do whatever the hell they want to. What made me slow down was not the two men, but a little girl, perhaps six or seven years old. I had passed her family a few seconds before—a mother and a father and two toddler-sized boys on balance bikes—and she must have cycled ahead. Her little bicycle lay on its side in the grass while she stood within feet of the two men, her hands on her hips, her mouth agape.

Sometimes, timing is everything. As I cycled on, thankful for every small decision I’d made earlier that had put me there at that precise moment, I marvelled at what would unfold over the next few minutes. The men hadn’t acknowledged the little girl and were still kissing, either because they couldn’t care less, or because they couldn’t face her. One way or another, they would escape more or less intact. But everyone else would be changed forever. The parents were seconds away from questions they hadn’t thought they’d field today. And the little girl would remember this afternoon the way I can still recall the moment—I was four or five years old—when I learned that my mother and father weren’t related.

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