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Jessica Porter

4 min


Between Those Lips

You can't always get what you want

by Jessica Porter

The Riviera sunset is flooding the lobby and bathing us all in warm light, but as it catches that world-famous mouth, there is a glint I know to examine more closely.

Between Those Lips | You can't always get what you want

Mick Jagger is holding my hand. Well, shaking it, technically, but contact has been made. My biggest dream to date is coming true as I stand in a French hotel lobby. I am fifteen, still deciding if preppy is cool, still wrestling with body odor management, and he is thirty-eight — an excellent, powerful, still dangerously sexy 38 — and he’s shaking my fucking hand.

I am staring into his eyes. Well, the lenses of his sunglasses, technically, which are perfectly round pink mirrors. Pink. That’s so Mick. I’ve been waiting in this place all day with two girlfriends, drinking a bladder full of citron pressés to get to this moment. But today is the culmination of many months of longing that started the second my pituitary gland met the cover of Sticky Fingers.

You know it: An image of Mick’s jean-clad pelvis, swollen with package, complete with phallic outline. The album cover teases, and pleases, and the zipper down its middle invites me into the in-your-face world of throbbing adulthood. That naughty little zipper tears down girlish boundaries. Beckons all stray cats. Unzipping it and peeking at the underwear beneath commits me to the cause. Sticky Fingers says: “Cocks are good. Go find one.”

And I find Mick’s. Well, his hand, technically, which has most certainly held that cock.

“Did you enjoy our show yesterday?” he asks, gamely humoring this little gaggle of girls in front of him, surely the ten millionth one to stop him in his tracks. I had been at the show, almost crushed to death in the crowd right up front. There were no seats on the floor of the stadium and those of us who got to the railing in front of the stage were nearly asphyxiated. That’s how much I care.

In the thirty seconds we converse — about their latest album, how the tour is going — I see it; a flash so tiny it could just be reflective saliva… but then I see it again. The Riviera sunset is flooding the lobby and bathing us all in warm light, but as it catches that world-famous mouth, there is a glint I know to examine more closely.

There it is.

My friend Jane, who will want to chop off my head when she hears about this moment, has shown it to me in photos. Mick Jagger has a tiny diamond embedded in one of his front teeth. The upper right lateral incisor, to be precise.

Now remember, this is long before Google, and a full generation before I could do a quickie search for the exact dental term for that tooth. It’s 1982 and information is gleaned only through hours of magazine perusal, book reading, and deadly earnest discussions with other obsessive fans. So Jane’s knowledge of this diamond was precious. It made her a Mick aficionado, an expert, a pro.

And here it is: The diamond. Between Those Lips. Exiting the lobby with its bodyguard.

“I want to get a diamond in my tooth,” I say. “This tooth.” I bring my finger to my upper right lateral.

It’s six months later, and I am sitting on my mother’s bed. I’m not a terribly greedy child, rarely asking for ridiculous things, so I figure my current demand might just fly.

She’s dressing to go out. Perfume is being spritzed and the mirrors on the inside of her closet doors are angled so she can see how she looks from behind.

“You want what?” she says, catching my eye through the mirror. This isn’t a typical request.

“Mick has one,” I say. There’s no need to say his surname; she knows.

She sighs.

My father, whom my mother divorced when I was just a toddler, is a courtroom lawyer, so I’m ready to present a case before she can offer a rebuttal:

“Mum, I am never going to love like this again…”

She stops and looks straight at me. She almost smiles, but thinks again. She knows to meet me at my angsty level; she is kind.

“I know I’m just a teenager, and that I’ll never be with him…” This is embarrassingly obvious, although my heart breaks a little as I say it. “But I will never feel like this about anybody else… ever again.”

Every cell of my body is activated as I sit on my mother’s bed, complete with electric blanket. I run my palm over the network of wires sewn inside the nubby, synthetic fabric. I am no longer a girl trying to manipulate her mother; I am speaking to both of us, from the future.

“When I’m old, I want to remember how much I love him now.”

My mother sits herself down, carefully, next to me. I’ve moved something in her.

“I’m afraid I’ll forget.”

This is not teen bullshit. I realize, smack in the middle of adolescence, that this time of life is different. I know it. I feel it. I sense the adults around me, their frequency reduced to a dull, sludgy hum. I know, at 15 years old, on a snowy evening in Toronto, with almost scientific certainty, that I am more alive than they are.

But on top of that, in a flash of adolescent wisdom, I realize that the deep forces and raw urges rushing through my being are fleeting. Tragically fleeting.

I have perspective.

“If I get a diamond in my tooth, I will always remember how much I care right now.” I don’t have the words to say it in a more sophisticated way. I wish I did. I am brutally aware that I’m a pubescent cliché. Teens are not idiots.

I ache. I cry. I wipe my snot. My mother stares at me for a bit. She rubs my back, making all the right maternal noises, and helps me cross yet one more crevasse of life.

She refused my request that night. She went out to her party and I returned to my room, its walls covered in images of Mick and Keith. I continued to obsess about the Rolling Stones for a couple more years, until my life got some of its own traction and I no longer needed Sticky Fingers as a buffer.

The topic came up again, in my thirties. I was visiting my mother, complete with her new husband, in England. I had doubled in age, been through college, dropped out of grad school, and the heat of adolescence had been converted into steam by culture’s machinery, rendered stable and presentable. Life could no longer be distilled into one moment, or one person, or one diamond.

I’d brought a new boyfriend and — as they tend to be when families meet lovers — old stories were told. I don’t know how exactly, but the diamond-in-my-tooth evening came up, and my mother revealed an angle she’d always hidden from me:

“I almost let you do it,” she said, shaking her head, as she spiraled back to that moment, on the bed with the electric blanket. “You were so passionate… so earnest.”

She looked at me, feeling whatever mothers feel when they see right into their daughters. She smiled, almost apologetically, as if she regretted her decision.

After a moment, she shifted her gaze out the window, over the tidal river that she and my stepfather had made their home on. On the far bank, there stood a fist of trees, thick and green.

“I almost let you do it.”

Sticky Fingers can still be found on vinyl, and Mick still has his diamond. My mother, however, is gone and I’ve more than tripled in age since I pleaded with her in Toronto. My hips hurt sometimes, and I wear diamonds in my earlobes, not my teeth. What’s left is that feeling, the strange adolescent force that I transmitted from her bed — and that she picked up on — that cold, December night. That’s still out there. It’s real.

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