It was a beautiful night. The air was calm, the temperature a perfect 73. We walked arm in arm for blocks and blocks, talking, laughing about everything and nothing in particular. His elbow brushed against the outline of my right breast. I felt as if we were two lovers on the streets of Paris. I could have walked forever this way. We passed men who stared at me as if I was the last woman on earth. See what happens when you say yes to the dress? To say he noticed would have been an understatement.
“Damn these guys are staring at you like I’m not even here walkin’ with you.” He took my hand and put some distance between us so that he could look at me incredulously. I was drunk with a bit of pride and vanity. I knew I was pretty but he made me believe I was beyond beautiful.
I laughed and put my hand over my mouth in my customary shy way. “No come on, don’t say that.”
But then we passed by a small group of young cats who stared at me with unabashed appreciation, illustrating his point. We looked at each other and burst out laughing. I loved that he took all of it in casually, without jealousy. I loved everything about him.
When we passed Strawberry I spotted an outfit in the window and stopped for a closer inspection until I saw something that drained the blood from my face and made me tumble backwards into his arms.
“Oh my God oh my God, we gotta get out of here. Let’s go, let’s go.” I was completely panicked, dragging on his hoodie with both my hands pleading with him to run from the storefront.
He covered my hands with his warm hands and chuckled good naturedly.
“Katrina slow down. What’s wrong? What’s a matter?”
I pointed to the storefront window excitedly. “There’s a huge cockroach on the window dude. We gotta get outta here.”
His mouth twitched and it was all he could do to hold in the laughter threatening like mad to break out. “He tucked my arm firmly under his and tried to soothe me.
“It’s ok. Damn that’s all it takes for you to jump into my arms like that? Man I’m gonna have to litter the streets with roaches.”
I reached for his throat playfully. “What? Are you crazy. I would loose my damn mind boy. Don’t you dare even say such a thing Imtiaz!”
He laughed and easily wrestled my hands to my side. He was skinny but damn he was strong. His face was so close to mine I could have reached out and kissed him. Would he kiss back? I couldn’t tell. Instead I opted to kiss his cheek. “Don’t you dare, I would never forgive you.” I whispered.
He pulled me back, gazed into my eyes and grew serious.
“I would never do anything to hurt you.”
I arched an eyebrow in surprise. He had many surprises in store for me, this one, I could tell.
I can’t feel my face when I’m with you. But I love it. Yes I love it.
“Come on, let’s get out of here.” I said, hoping to break the growing tension.
We walked the next couple of blocks in amiable silence, my hand firmly secured under his and this time, his elbow bracing against the outline of my left breast. I had no complaints. When we arrived at the train station I tried to steel myself for the inevitable goodbye.
“So which train will you be taking home? Or do you have to walk all the way back?” My voice sounded strange to my ears. I almost sounded defensive.
“Hey I’m gonna walk you all the way home. What kind of guy just walks you to the train station?”
He held onto my hand and began walking down the stairs.
I stopped forcing him to stop.
“Imtiaz, that’s incredibly sweet of you but I don’t live around the corner hon. I’ve got to take this train all the way to Queens then I have to hop on a bus. My commute is like an hour and half.” There it was. I laid the facts out like a set of surgical tools. Now that you have them tiger, you still wanna play doctor?
He pushed his neck forward pursed his lips and shot his eyebrows up as if to say “So?”
“Looks like we have a long way to go so how much time you want to waste talking about it?”
My mouth hung open in what I could only imagine as unattractively waiting to give a rebuttal. But before anything could come to mind he grabbed my hand and headed down the stairs with me in tow. I quit resisting. I had no real desire to win this battle.
We sat on the train together, side by side and I couldn’t resist the urge to lay my head on his shoulder. He squeezed my hand with his own and caressed my head with his cheek and chin. And my head found all of the words my tongue refused to utter. I couldn’t remember feeling this good about anyone.
I wasn’t being careful. I wasn’t resisting one impulse that popped into my head. I couldn’t seem to remember that I was not only a married woman but a mother as well. Anyone could have seen me on this train, a family member, a friend, why didn’t it matter right now? Why was I willing to let the whole world freeze so that I could hold on to the fire this tiger ignited within my soul? Because I knew that if anyone saw me they wouldn’t even recognize me. How could they, when I couldn’t recognize myself anymore?