In a certain flat in a certain building, a woman founded one of the most popular industries among men—selling kisses. Apart from the staff, the shop was covered with white, almost letting out a faint glow. Its modern design gave customers a sense of inner peace, so as to comfort those whose souls had been hurt deeply.
This is the place where I work at. All staff members (which are all women) have no names, not even the boss. We only call her ‘Boss’, while staff members are only given code names.
‘Hello. I’m Miss Number One Three Two Four. Welcome.’ I have to introduce myself like this to every customer I meet, in a particularly cold tone no less. This is done so as to avoid any misunderstandings and make sure that no feelings are established at the start.
With his languid expression and crooked back, the man in front of me is clearly very tired. I think to myself, ‘Such a weirdo. No wonder he’s a customer.’ Yet, I remain composed, still putting on my stony facade. Sitting on a chair in the middle of the spacious, white room, I gaze into the soul of this customer, buried in the depths of his eyes.
Here’s another man who needs to be saved!
He draws closer to me and stops. The tip of my nose and his face shares a mere distance of about fifteen centimetres. His fixed gaze speaks to me, as if he was begging the most beautiful goddess in the world to spare him a little of her love. Stretching his hand out, his eyes remain grave, wanting to pull away my mask which looked like the one worn by the deformed Erik in The Phantom of the Opera. His hand almost grazes against my mask.
‘Sir.’ I say firmly. He waves his hand away immediately, but his eyes still show a kind of affection which resembles the admiration of many when looking at the Mona Lisa. I pity the fool, yet I can do nothing more than performing my own duties.
‘Sir. According to rule fifty nine of our store, customers are not allowed to touch staff members’ masks.’ His cheeks flush red in response, followed by several apologies at once. I swiftly cut to the chase without giving him a hard time. ‘Sir, once you tell me the code, we can begin.’
‘I love you!’ He exclaims, before giving me a kiss.
‘I love you too.’ I reply, as our kiss deepens between our embrace. His lips are dry, probably because he hasn’t been using chapstick for some time. His poor oily skin… At this moment, tears start streaming down his cheeks, warm and bitter… His tongue swirls against mine, desperately clinging onto my mouth, not wanting to let go as it seems to gently plead with sorrow, ‘My darling… my love…’
This man, he really needed a kiss from somebody. After ten seconds, the session ends.
‘Ten seconds have already passed, sir. That would be a thousand dollars.’
‘Can we kiss again?’
‘Sir, it will be one thousand dollars for every ten seconds. Any extra time short of ten seconds will be counted as ten seconds as well.’
‘Never mind then!’ He says with reluctance, though his gloomy expression has already softened a bit, his smile showing his gratitude.
‘Hello Miss Number One Three Two Four! We meet again!’
It’s that waster again.
‘Hello sir. Welcome,’ I reply with an icy tone.
‘Do you still remember me?’ He asks, his naive eyes resembling that of a child: twinkling with curiosity and wonder.
And what a cute mouth.
Obvious as it is, without saying it out loud, we both already know the answer. Still, I have to answer his question routinely. ‘Don’t worry, sir. According to rule thirty two of our store, staff members are not allowed to deliberately remember customers’ faces and names. Your personal information and privacy are kept safe.’
He smiles and says, ‘Don’t be so rigid! It’s boring!’ before walking towards me. Facing this sort of person, I don’t know whether I should find this enjoyable or ridiculous. As I begin to relax, my gaze drifts towards the small cockroach wandering above the ceiling. Meanwhile, unexpectedly, he lunges towards me, points at the tip of my nose, and softly mutters into my ears, ‘Be my lover, okay?’ I turn red in the face almost immediately.
‘I love you!’ He crushes his lips against mine before he even finished speaking, flicking them with his tongue.
I haven’t even said my ‘formula’ yet, and now I’m being ‘molested’ by his French kiss, totally unprepared. Ridiculous as it sounds, who would ever think that ‘selling kisses’ counts as ‘molesting’ as well?
Truth be told, this job isn’t much different from sex work; just that it’s been disguised as ‘a treatment for those in need of kisses’.
Nonsense! Lies, lies, lies. All lies!
Sadly though, I could only accept this type of work, as I have just graduated high school.
After ten seconds, we’re running out of breath.
‘Sir, it has been ten seconds. That would be one thousand dollars.’
He seems to ignore me, cupping my face hidden away by the mask once more. ‘I love you!’ This time, he waits for my response instead of kissing me right away.
‘I love you too.’ I utter out the lie once more.
Kissing, kissing, kissing.
I hate this kind of person the most! With a tongue piercing, he probably hasn’t heard of the saying ‘Our bodies,to every hair and bit of skin, are received by us from our parents’. From his kissing skills, he’s probably hurt many girls before; by kissing random strangers, he’s probably forgotten what they taught in school about sex education…
Bit by bit, bit by bit, I gather all my assumptions about him, which makes me hate him—the person who’s now kissing me.
He spent a grand total of eighteen thousand dollars.
‘Goodbye for now! Please consider what I’ve said!’ He grins with a wink, and leaves the room without turning his head round.
Gazing upon his shadow, I smile. Even though I hate him, I still enjoy the feeling of being loved by him.
There hardly seems to be any differences between our mentality, I think. Ha!
The next customer is my former boyfriend, and I knew it right away before he even walked in. The rhythm of his footsteps are still unique to me. The only difference is, he’s wearing a pair of new shoes. In the past, he used to only wear trainers, ones in an eye-catching neon green mixed with shades of orange. They were only worth a few hundred dollars; I gave them to him as a gift.
Here he comes, wearing his winter uniform with the button on the collar undone and his tie missing, showing off a bit of his bronze-coloured skin. All while wearing a pair of white new trainers.
My heart aches at the sight of him.
Before, once he got out of school, he would change his shoes and instantly wear the trainers I had given him. Sadly, our love has ended. I can’t believe that I can remain so calm and composed in front of him, and even tell him my introduction of the kissing service. I can’t help but to chat with him, even though I know I have broken the company’s rules.
Not long after, I can’t help but smile at him.
‘You look like my ex-girlfriend.’ He freezes in shock,his eyes shining with infatuation as well as sorrow.
‘I love you.’ He delivers those words with feigned composure.
‘I love you too.’ My heart flutters at his words.
We kiss. I know how I should kiss him: no tongue swirling involved, just laying it flat. He knows morse code, and he used to spell out ‘I love you’ with the tip of his tongue.
Kiss after kiss after kiss.
I kiss him hungrily and greedily while I desperately try to grasp his heart that once belonged to me with my palms. My tongue seems to cry out, ‘I love you!’. Yet, he doesn’t seem to know.
His kiss beseeches me, trying so hard to seek the slight chance of comfort in my small mouth. Such bitterness his kiss tastes! Oh, without me, how much has he been tortured by loneliness!
Tears of guilt and shame fall from the corner of my eye, as they pierce right through my heart. Let’s keep kissing like this! Even though our romance has been long gone, we can still comfort and support each other through kisses.
Ten seconds have passed. We stop, not wanting to part from each other. Standing in front of me, he looks so familiar yet so foreign.
My nerves tingle as his gaze travels up and down my body.
If you recognise me, just say it! Tell me to take my mask off! Even if it means losing my job, I will definitely take my mask off for you, just so our eyes and smiles can finally meet each other.
Yet, I know you lack this kind of courage. You’re such a coward that you won’t let yourself love others. I know you well enough…
Such a person doesn’t deserve my love!
My mind goes blank after being stirred up, all those routine lies gone in an instant, all while hoping that you’ll break the rules.
In the end though, you didn’t say anything about recognising me. Without a word, you leave me, not even turning your head around once.
It’s lunch time, but I decide not to eat anything. A puff of smoke drags across my lips as I have my first taste of cigarettes in the staff room.