I have never felt as free as the night I gave a Brazilian guy my lips and stood proudly doing so.
It was Carnaval in Brazil, and the cobblestone streets were filled with college men and women with signs around their necks with the words, “free kisses” written in sharpie.
It was pre-Covid, and most guys were either dressed in ripped tank tops or shirtless.
I thought I’d spend the evening as my shy self usually did—maybe eating a Brazilian-style hotdog with corn and potato chips while sipping a caipirinha, but this is not what happened.
Instead, I found myself holding the hands of tall, handsome men and learning the Brazilian dialect of French kissing.
Though shy to this day, I must confess: I liked it—I liked it a lot.
I have always been a timid, anxious person who twists her left foot toward 4:00 p.m. when she’s nervous and looks down at her shoes to avoid eye contact—but this didn’t happen those nights during Carnaval.
Rather than hiding, for the first time in my life, I looked up and said hello to the beautiful men in front of me.
I do not remember any of their names, except the one who wrote his phone number with his last name, “Paixão,” meaning “passion,” on my palm.
Yes, his real last name was, indeed, “Passion.”
He didn’t have to tell me his last name, though, to make my heart skip a beat.
As soon as he tucked my hair behind my ear, there was no turning back.
“Where’s Rebecca?” I remember hearing a friend ask as I was kissing Mr. Passion up against a blue cement wall next to a guy selling some pipoca (popcorn).
I soon wished him goodbye and continued on with my friends, stopping on occasion when embraced by another tall handsome fella with another “free kisses” sign.
Now, I’m not one to recommend engaging in this kind of behavior every day, but if you are new to Brazil, you gotta try this Carnaval thing just once.
I promise you won’t regret it.
It’s been several years now since my Carnaval experience, and while maybe I kissed a few too many men that night, I must say, now that we are all stuck inside for who knows how long, I am glad that I let my hair down and gave a few college guys my lips.
It’s a memory I am sure I will savor long into my old age.
There are many things we are missing these days. More than anything, I think most of us long for human connection. I, myself, included.
It’s not easy being alone these many months. It was nice in the beginning, but it’s now beginning to make me wonder if there will ever be a time again in my life when I’ll experience momentary connections with strangers. I’m not sure I ever will.
While I can’t foresee my future, I can still close my eyes and return briefly to Brazil and to Mr. Passion’s arms.
It’s beautiful there.
I can see the cobblestone and feel something gently on my lips.
A hand tucks my long hair behind my right ear and some drums begin to play in the background.
I smell fresh popcorn and look down at my hand.
I see, “Paixão” written and smile.
As I look up again, I see all of Brazil’s beauty staring back at me.
I keep staring and become lost in connection.
My feet are no longer on the ground, and this is okay.
Fully embraced against the cement wall, there is no space for nerves.
It’s just me and Brazil’s colorful eyes.