I am not much of a rock climber. If I have any notoriety in the climbing world it is because of my monstrous failures. But this is not a story about a failure. This is a story about Cedar’s kiss.
Thomasina and I met five years ago in Squamish. We did not talk much. I borrowed her Rubik’s cube for a few weeks and returned it with slightly peeled stickers. I offered to buy her a new one but she said she did not mind. I still feel bad about it.
A few summers later, I was back in Squamish. Thomasina was pregnant and was hanging out more than she was rock climbing. As I biked from the grocery store to the library, I saw Thomasina kicking the curb near the bus stop. I stopped to see how she was doing.
Thomasina was worried. She needed 600 hours to receive maternity benefits and had only 130. The baby’s father was not helpful. She kicked the dandelions that were growing through the concrete of the sidewalk.
“I tried to call him. The answering machine was in French. It takes so much courage just to call.”
I looked for the Greyhound. I did not want her to be late to meet with her midwife in Vancouver. I did not know what to say or do so I kept listening.
“Why do men stick their dicks in you and leave?” she asked.
Thomasina broke my heart. Was I an asshole man too? Had I done that to women? I wanted to cry. Instead, I kept listening. After half an hour her breathing relaxed, the stream of tears stopped, and Thomasina calmed. The bus arrived and I hugged her.
“Thanks, James,” she told me. I was not sure what I done but I smiled anyway.
“Anytime Thomo.” I watched her board the bus and waited until she had started down the road to Vancouver before I returned to my bike and headed to the library.
Two years later, Thomasina grabbed the perfect granite crimps of the Camp 4 classic Thriller. She bore down, pulling herself through the moves of the twenty-foot Yosemite boulder problem. I made a few meager attempts at the climb but I was barely able to get off the ground, I gave up and paid more attention to the little girl running around.
Cedar was bored. She had spent an enormous amount of time in the boulders during her two young years. She summered in Squamish, hanging out below the Chief. She had been to Hueco and just returned from a long trip to Bishop. Watching people climb was getting old already. I took her little hand, told Thomasina we were going for a walk, and we headed down the trail.
A hundred feet away was a puddle. Cedar wanted to throw the stick in the puddle. So we did. I tried to keep her pants from getting too wet and staying out of the water too much. It was fun. She was really independent and at times hard to direct. I followed her moves and kept playing her game until she got tired of throwing the stick in the water.
Eventually we wandered over towards the trail. She wanted to throw some more sticks. I chased after them walking like Charlie Chaplain, the little tramp. I would get the stick, try and pick it up, and then kick it. Whoops! How could I ever pick up the stick? Cedar loved it. Her face cracked open and she screamed with laughter. I had never made a girl so happy before.
We started to her to her home, the minivan she shared with Thomasina. As we walked back and forth from the car Cedar looked at me. She waved her hand back and forth. This was her sign language telling me she needed to use the bathroom. I did not know what to do. This little girl needed me to take her pants off and hold her while she peed. Fuck. I started epicing.
“Let’s go back to your mom,” I said.
Cedar ignored me and grabbed the strap to her overalls, trying to take them off.
“Let’s go back to your mom,” I repeated. I did not want to force her and bring her but it was not working.
That’s when she peed herself. I fucked up.
I desperately wanted to make things right with Cedar. When she needed me, I failed her. I was just another irresponsible man.
“Do you want to go back to your mom now?” I asked her.
Cedar’s deep brown eyes stared at me. I picked her up and carried her towards Thriller.
“I am sorry, Cedar. I am so sorry.” I did not know what to say. I was a complete fuck-up. I needed affirmation that things would be all right. “Can I have a kiss Cedar? Please?”
Cedar stared ahead, looking towards the boulders for Thomasina. When we reached the base, a dozen other people had shown up below to watch. I handed the wet Cedar to Thomasina. As the little girl moved from my arms to her mother’s, she turned her head, looked at me, and pressed her lips on my cheek. I melted. It was the sweetest kiss ever.
And that’s the story of Cedar’s kiss.