Nul kussen. What a nightmare, and what a way to wake up. The anti-kussen machines bleat like soft alarms, tiringly monotonous, just sitting there, doing nothing. In denial, or simply incapable of action. What use does the world have for such machines? I’d rather run a marathon. And so I kissed you secretly, on your shoulder, while the lasers and cheap dry ice provided cover. So subtle and discreet you never knew. But zero doesn’t count, anyway. I remain alone. Een kus is a start, but not enough. There we were standing in the doorway and suddenly – kus! A brief encounter with the moon, the night like cold fire. How did we get there? The staircase dared me to jump and I did, headlong, into the words coming out of your mouth. The tip of my tongue an iceberg, my arms around you trying to be the sun. That didn’t work either. But even goodbye was a lovely word. I kept running. Twee kussen – one each, or a combo kus, followed by coffee. It doesn’t get any better than that – two Buddha kussen, born in an arrivals hall, the loudspeakers announcing what we already knew was true. The vertigo, my dizzy spell. Dream kussen, like a voice on the other end of the line informing you that hey, it’s all going to be okay, probably. We ran, samen. The driver was waiting. Drie kussen on the cheeks, the traditional way, each turning of the face like a lighthouse beaming its warning to the seas, whoever might be out there, in a lifeboat. Smugglers waiting their turn. The rocks, jagged potato crisps punching through cellophane. The left cheek, the right cheek, the left cheek again – or was that left cheek, right cheek, lippen? As you said, it gives both people time to suss each other out. Not a move to be performed when meeting someone’s mother. Vier kussen – the scared kisses. Scared and trembling, uncertain but falling forward, all your weight balanced in the tips of your toes, springing into kussen on a trampoline of hopes and desires still secret. The kussen one can only give or receive after eight hours of walking along dusty streets lined with conversations that must be had. Arriving exhausted at a point where words turn into kussen, again in the dark, as you moved towards me. I knew then that fear, while a four letter word, is not the same as vier. They sound so similar when spoken aloud but the vier in vier kussen is far more gentle, ever so faint. Though I was still on the run, I became a romantic hobo, a zwerver with intentions of settling down to write the book of kussen, an abstract though scientific work based on the testimony of thousands of lovers, millions of years. Vijf kussen representing five lekker sweets laid out on a styrofoam plate and covered with plastic. A lucky nummer symbolising victory over death (otherwise known as nul kussen). Kussen given freely on national holidays and other special occasions, whenever they may arise. One for each sense, plus a silent kus for intuition. The kind of kussen known to lovers the world over, except Antarctica, where they cannot survive, except in the beaks of penguins. Zes kussen from the deep sea, where plankton in their multitudes kiss the lips of whales and krill die willingly for love. The sargasso’s opera floods the warm shallows with its strange attractors, where lie the seaweed kussen, arms and legs akimbo, everything gek en leuk. Zesty kussen from the realm of dreams, lemon lippen and een stoute tong. Zes kussen for the Antipodean seasons – weird but true. Devil kussen. Zeven kussen for all the days of all the weeks without kussen. The orphaned kussen, the suicide kussen, the sooky rupsig kussen crawling on their thousand hands towards de eerste kus, towards vandaag. Zeven heavenly kussen for everyone, and zeven more for the atheists. The ones who don’t believe in kussen. Mooi kussen for every man in de maan. Supermooi heartbreaking kussen for the heartbroken. Superlief astonishing kussen for every scuba diver, every verpleegster. For every maar, every waarom. Zeven lightning kussen for de vrouw in de nacht, whose eyes alone could light up suburbs with their heat. Heel hete … zeven gelukkig kussen landing in my lap, then flying away again to the moon, where kussen are as yet rare, though not impossible to find. Acht, negen, tien kussen. Elf, twaalf, dertien kussen … drie honderd vijfenzestig kussen. I like the sound of that. Repeated over and over again. Each day without you is a year of lost kussen. Each year of kussen, a thousand future explosions. I’m so ready.