He waited until after the credits rolled and the crowd thinned before cocking his head to the side and asking “You ready to leave?”
I smiled, rose and hooked my bag in the crook of my arm. He turned to the side and waited for me to pass before gently placing his hand on my waist leading me through the doors toward the lobby.
His intimate touch awakened the butterflies. They began their dance once more.
I felt giddy, nervous and confident though my opposite emotions lived side by side in harmony.
Are you that somebody? Tell me you’re that somebody.
Applebees was right downstairs and since we were both hungry, the choice was easy.
When we got outside he led me off to the side of the street, into a small open-way between two buildings.
“I know this is a bad habit and I’m trying to quit but do you mind if I have a cigarette?”
I like the way he started that off, with an apology, like I was some sort of woman he knew he had to be a better man for.
I laughed easily. “Do your thing. In fact, can I bum one off of you?”
If he had any notions of me being some sort of upper crust society, might as well assuage him of it right now.
Some part of me urged caution. Hey girl you’re falling too fast, being too real, allowing him too much access. Why can’t you get comfortable with the notion that he might think more of you than you might be? What’s wrong with that? You know eventually that almost always turns out to be true anyway. Why insist on making him so comfortable so fast? Why not let him work for it?
But I threw caution to the wind. This adventure I would play out with all authenticity. I would experience every moment as myself, just plain old Catrina. Right? Right.
His eyebrows went up. In judgment? I couldn’t tell.
“You smoke?” He pulled out a stick and handed it to me.
I smiled and let him light me up, took a long drag, closing my eyes and enjoying the sensation.
“On occasion, usually when I’m drinking. But tonight I want to have one.”
He bobbed his head up and down like he understood all.
“Okay okay. That’s cool. I just don’t want to be a bad influence.” He smiled.
“Influence?” I knitted my brows together and took another drag returning his smile.
“Okay, well maybe that’s not the right word but you know what I mean. It’s not a good habit to have. Even I myself am trying to quit.”
“I know. But everyone’s got to do what they got to do in their own time.” My words were coated with meaning. They were telling him to back off without bringing the heavy. But I meant it just the same.
He grinned, shook his head and took a long drag. When he looked back at me there was no mistaking the challenge in my eyes.
I was primed for a negative reaction. I already got a daddy.
He smiled. “That’s true, that’s true. I mean you’re a grown woman. I ain’t tryin’ tell you what to do you know what I’m sayin’?”
He took a crooked stance, pinched his fag between thumb and middle finger, took a short drag and pointed at both of us driving his position home.
I smiled and took another drag. “It’s all good Imtiaz. It’s not like it’s the best habit to keep.” Even when I won, I threw in the towel. The voice in my head edited my last sentence with a stern warning. You really could have left that last line out bitch but there you go again, someone gives in an inch, you throw in a yard. I ignored Sasha Fierce and kept it pushin.
He finished his cig before me, and tucked his hands in his pockets patiently waiting.
Suddenly I’d had enough and flicked the remaining half bud.
“You didn’t have to do that. I was good waiting for you to finish Catrina.”
“No I’ve had enough. I’m hungry. Let’s go eat.”
The subtle shifts in balance of power between us a tangible, inconstant thing.
He affected me. He won but I would keep him guessing by obscuring the truth with excuses. He couldn’t be absolutely certain. I was attempting to quell the cautionary voice in my head, my usual defense when I knew I had gone one step more than necessary. Men love a good mystery. God knows why I was so hell bent on being transparent. It never served me well.
I took a deep breath as we swung through the revolving doors.
A pretty hostess greeted us as soon as we entered the half empty restaurant.
“Party of two for dinner?” She asked, looking at me expectantly.
“Yes.” Imtiaz replied firmly, tucking my loose arm into his.
She smiled at him while motioning for us to go upstairs and speaking into her walkie talkie. “Two for dinner.”
I assessed the young man with whom I was happily linked and shuddered with a slight apprehension. This honey brown boy, whom I dubbed tiger was more accurately nicknamed than I could have ever imagined.