Shelly Oria is a Brooklyn-based writer who grew up in Tel Aviv, Israel. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, McSweeney’s and Electric Lit’s Recommended Reading, among others Her forthcoming publications include a short story collection New York 1, Tel Aviv 0 published by FSG and Random House Canada (2014).
Oria has been a recipient of a Ucross Foundation Fellowship, WY (2014); a Sozopol Fiction Seminars Fellowship, Bulgaria (2014); and a Macdowell Fellowship, Peterborough, NH (2012, 2014). She received a B.A. from Tel Aviv University and an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College.
Image credit: courtesy of the artist
Excerpt from Documentation. First published in Brooklyn the Borough in 2010. Forthcoming from FSG in November.
Kisses # 1-3
I kiss you for the first time, and it starts to rain. You tell me it’s a sign of something, maybe good luck. We don’t have an umbrella, so we just stand there kissing, getting wet, and I think about what you said. The idea that the sky is talking to us makes me uncomfortable, but I don’t say that and hug you instead. You mistake my hug for agreement, and let your face sink into my shoulder. The air smells clean.
The second time I kiss you is an attempt to comfort; you’ve just found out your cat died. I don’t like cats, but that would clearly be the wrong thing to say, so I think maybe a kiss could fill in for words. Your sadness makes your lips soft, too soft, and I feel like I’m shaping a kiss out of Play-Doe. You know all about the difference between passion and empathy, of course; you stop me, your left hand between our mouths. I walk away from you; this is noon and New York and the street is roaring. You are alone now with your distance, with your sorrow, with the memory of your dead cat.
I kiss you a third time, two weeks later, and it’s a good kiss—just the right balance of wetness and dryness, closeness and a sense of self. You are the reason this kiss is a success, this is your accomplishment. I am impressed, and decide to document every lip encounter between us from now until there is nothing more to document. This will be three years later, in an ice cream parlor on Sixth Avenue, where you will kiss me with chocolate chip cookie dough and finality, and I will let my ice cream drip all over my new tank top after you’ve gone, like in a bad movie.
For now, documenting helps me forget what I don’t yet know.
Kiss # 17
I kiss you in a swimming pool. The lightness of my body in the water makes me feel inconsequential. I try to leave my frustration out of our kiss, but that’s the thing about kisses, isn’t it? You can never leave anything out.
The smell of chlorine stays in my skin for two days. I take multiple showers, because I don’t know how to passively wait for things to get better. You say I’m crazy, that I’m imagining things, imagining the chlorine. I pretend the smell is gone before it really is.
Kiss # 99
This is a Sunday morning kiss in upstate New York. We are in a Bed & Breakfast.
It has been a long time since you kissed me like this, and it reminds me of that kiss that made me fall in love with you (see kiss # 3). Yesterday was filled with disappointment; we got lost and couldn’t find I-87, then the hot tub wasn’t as big as you’d expected. But this kiss, the first thing that happens to me on Sunday, is light with possibility and future.