Linked arm in arm, the train and bus ride seemed to take no time at all. I walked with my brown skinned boy in a dream world of our own making. New York City, population 2. Everything so ordinary transformed into the extraordinary. And every step we took seemed to color a world of grey. We were magical. Every gesture, look and touch he graced me with, a mythical message conjured for only me. I was mesmerized, spellbound. If I could bottle time I would relive this moment for the rest of my earthly days, so entranced was I.
We released each other when we arrived at my front steps but since neither of us had any script to follow we lit up instead and lapsed into easy conversation.
“I had a really nice time Imtiaz.” I smiled at him opposite me, pursed my lips and inhaled.
“I did too.” He smiled looking at the concrete, bobbing his head and squinting his eyes taking in another quick drag.
We talked more about the movie and I wondered at his lack of hurry. He made no moves to end our evening and instead of making me nervous it only served to embolden me once again.
“It’s getting late and you’ve got a long way back home. Would you like to come in for a bit? I could make you some coffee?”
I gazed at him expectantly. I could see a hesitation cross over his face and just as quickly he managed to banish it. I held my breath.
“Yeah? You sure it’s ok Cat?”
Whatever barrier that was holding on by a thread, the utterance of Cat from his lips all but ensured his entry.
As I inserted key into lock I could feel his breath upon my neck and it both chilled and inflamed me.
He had me at hello.
I opened my apartment door and stepped aside to let him pass.
I could tell by the expression on his face that he had an appreciation for all things his eyes encountered. I can’t lie. I was brimming with prideful vanity. I took great care in choosing every bit of furniture, artwork and decor in my tiny apartment. For months the process consumed my every waking thought and pursued me throughout the night in my dreams. The results, a warm and cozy pierre de terre you’re more likely to encounter in Paris or nestled in Manhattan than in Queens.
“Wow, you’ve got a really nice place Cat.” He admired the kitchen/dining area with the wonder of a child. It endeared him to me.
“Thank you Imtiaz. I love my home. It’s my sanctuary.” I ducked inside of the bedroom to tuck my purse away and slip into my comfy slippers.
When I came back into the kitchen I saw that he hadn’t moved an inch. He seemed to be waiting for permission.
I fanned my fingers toward the dining pub chairs. “Please sit down anywhere you feel comfortable. I’m going to make the coffee.”
“Thank you. Thank you.” He bowed his head in acquiescence, shrugged out of his jacket, pulling them at the sleeves and fixing them to the back of the chair. He chose the chair with the best view of the kitchen and of me.
I smiled and turned around to hit the button on the electric kettle. It was a new model and lit up in pale blue signifying the boiling of water was in progress.
Imtiaz jumped out of the chair clearly hypnotized by the light.
“What in the world is that?” He pointed to the kettle in childish wonder, planting himself closely by my side.
Come see, never see, mom Indira would say.
I laughed amiably. “It’s an electric kettle, one of my favorite things in the house. The first time I saw one was when I went to visit my aunt in England many years ago. The moment I saw it I decided I just had to have one.”
“Wow that’s cool.” He shifted from foot to foot as if trying to decide what his next move would be.
I turned from him and opened the overhead cabinet to fetch a coffee mug.
“So did you have a nice time? Enjoyed the movie?” He asked nervously.
I could tell he was inches from me. I swallowed nervously, anticipating the scenario that would come next. I couldn’t seem to find my tongue to answer.
I busied myself with the task of fixing his coffee with my back to him. All of a sudden, in the stillness with only the noise of the kettle he lightly placed one hand on either side of my hip. The shock of his intimate touch startled me and I involuntarily arch my back slightly which only served to close any gap between our bodies. His grip tightened around my hips and all of a sudden my body surrendered into his chest. His arms encircled my waist and held me against him. My head fell to the side. He freed one arm to gently push my hair to the side before laying a host of gentle, soft kisses along the ridge of my neck. I closed my eyes in utter ecstasy.
“I know you said we’d only be friends but you’re so beautiful. I can’t help myself.”
I could provide no answer. I was lost in the sensuality of the moment. I banished all words and coherent thought. I wished only to feel.
He held me to him for what seemed like a long time, cleared his throat and gently broke away.
I wanted more but I feared he would value me less because of it. Instead I turned around, kissed his cheek gently and exhibited a calm I did not feel.
I pivoted slowly, returning to my task. I imagined he contemplated a great many things standing behind me.
I brushed past him to put the milk back in the fridge. When I faced him again there was no denying the desire he felt nor the struggle to ignore it.
He put his hand upon my cheek. “I’ve already done too much, I know that. And I know that you probably won’t even do it but I’ve got to ask you because I can’t help myself. I want to kiss you so bad, just once. And I know you won’t…”
I covered his mouth with my own, the heat of desire burning every inch of my body. I opened to him but only slightly somehow managing to control the raging fire within me. I wanted to give in to my passions entirely but I feared in doing so, so quickly, might solicit an involuntary old indian judgment against my character and thrust me in a category of loose women. I could not justify the risk and chose to quell my thirst instead. I pulled away first, almost demurely though it was not entirely premeditated. It was he who transformed me into a tigress.
He said nothing at first but stared at me in penetrating awe.
I traced his jawline with my fingertip and then flicked his chin playfully.
It was the signal he needed to fully break from me. He laughed and reached for the coffee. I folded my arms across my chest almost as if I didn’t trust them not to reach out and touch him once more.
He drained the cup and placed it gently in the sink.
“Yo man, that’s some good coffee right there.” He bobbed his head up and down pointing to the cup.
He came to me and wrapped me up in his arms kissing my forehead chastely.
“I don’t even know where the train is right now. I barely remember how I got here but I know one thing. And I know you’re not gonna believe me but this was the best night of my life.”
I looked up at him and surprised myself because I believed him. I ate up every word like it was gospel. He graced me with a soft, hurried kiss on my lips, as if he were my lover running out to get milk from the corner store. The kiss, a promise that he would return.
Then my tiger was gone. I was left alone and I shuddered suddenly cold realizing that he had taken the heat with him.