Nothing had gone right for me that day and waiting in a long line for an overpriced coffee was adding to my growing irritation. As I was mulling over my choices, I felt the sudden awkward sensation of someone staring at me. Not only was the person staring, but he, as I assumed, was standing closer to me than is customary. I could feel his gaze washing over the contours of my body and with laser-like accuracy taking in every inch of my flesh.
I contemplated moving back one step, ‘accidentally’ stepping on his toes, after all, he was invading my personal space, and I was not in the mood for flirtations. The truth is I was off men. My last set of romances had been with a string of men going through mid-life crises and who acted more like boys than men. I had had enough of them and their lying, deceitful, noncommittal ways.
Just as I was about to swing around to confront him, he leaned in even closer whispering low and urgently on my neck. What was that he had asked? I couldn’t make sense of his question since the warmth of his breath had caused a set of small goosebumps to erupt all over my skin. It was an unexpected reaction, and I would have been embarrassed if he had noticed the flush that my dark skin could so easily conceal. I started to turn around but immediately had to drop my gaze as I felt exposed under his.
“Excuse me?” My voice had just a slight edge to it though I cocked my ear so I could readily understand what he was saying. His accent was thick but his words had been clear; I had heard him right the first time, but there he was repeating his brazen and impudent request.
“I said, ‘You are absolutely beautiful, and it would be my pleasure to buy you this coffee.'”
With unveiled irritation, I pivoted around completely to face him squarely, but my combative stance mellowed as I really saw him. The stranger had already straightened up his 6-foot frame but had done nothing to hide the amusement playing around his dark-rimmed eyes. His lips were pink and full, and when he spoke they seemed to make love to his words, seductively clinging to his teeth as he laboriously formed his o’s. If I had been younger and perhaps if he had been older, I might have stuttered and flirted with him, but he was young; too young.
We both had been standing on a long line in Starbucks; me mulling over the various choices in my head, knowing that I would get the regular cappuccino I always got. I chastised myself at how boring and conventional I had become, but gladly he couldn’t read my private thoughts. Finally finding my voice and totally out of character for me, I thanked him and accepted, after all it was only a coffee.
“A regular cappuccino? he parroted. His raised eyebrow, thick and perfectly sculpted, told me that he had also found my choice boring, and so I quickly suggested that we share a flourless chocolate chip cookie.
It wasn’t difficult to guess at his age. He couldn’t have been more than 25 himself though his full beard defied his boyish looks, and too, his clearly enunciated English spoke of an educated and older, well-traveled gentleman.
He said he was from Jordan.
Later when we stepped out into the chilly air, it felt like we had already been out on several dates and here now on this date it was only natural for him to slip his hands into the crook of my arms. I didn’t pull away though I did not let him lace his fingers through mine as he tried to do. As any gentleman would, he insisted on walking me the two blocks to my bus stop which was in the opposite direction of where he had to go. We walked silently, guarding our own thoughts and perhaps the pounding in our hearts while listening to the squishy sound our parkas made as they rubbed against each other.
Reaching a rocky ledge that was hidden behind the bus shelter, he sat down quickly before taking my hands in his and then commanded me to sit. For a minute, I wondered how I had gotten to this place. It felt I had known him for much longer than the 30 minutes that it had actually been. I gave in as he pulled me down onto the hard rock, pressing his body close to mine, and I was truly grateful as I could already feel the cold seeping through the thick fabric of my jeans.
By then I had become comfortable with him and so I was not embarrassed to face him directly and admire his face. He was recognisably Middle Eastern, with a smooth olive complexion and thick black hair. His eyes were luminous and were made more so by the impossibly long lashes that seemed to brush against his cheeks. I found him intoxicatingly exotic, but I still couldn’t understand how he had ended up next to me, and more so, I was afraid to find out what he really wanted.
I felt so foolish sitting so close to a stranger; so close to a boy, but he was very sure of himself and had not once let go of my hand nor had he taken his eyes off me.
“Kiss me.” He hadn’t needed words as his intentions were clearly written on his face. I didn’t respond: I couldn’t. I sat there watching as Adnan pushed his oversized glasses up his narrow nose. The lenses were thick and they magnified his eyes. He looked like Clark Kent, and instantly I felt I needed a Superman.
Without releasing his magnetic stare, Adnan took both of my hands in his, cold now from the dropping temperatures, and he held them up to his lips. For a second, it seemed he was undecided if he should kiss my fingertips or rub them up and down his cheeks. He did neither, opting then to form my fingers into a ball, before forcing his warm breath through them. I couldn’t help but shiver as the heat snaked through my hands, pushing feebly against the cold which almost cocooned our bodies.
“Kiss me,” he repeated, his voice less authoritative now though he was clearly commanding me like someone accustomed to being in charge.
“Why?” I said, feeling the original irritation coming back to me. I knew how men operated and I felt I could kick myself for standing there with this man. I didn’t take lightly to anyone ordering me about and certainly not a young stranger.
“Why?,” he mocked teasingly. “Because you want to.” He had answered his own question with more assurance than arrogance, and though I would not have admitted it then, I knew I found that level of self-confidence attractive.
“So?” he was saying, as his warm breath formed burgeoning clouds in the cool air. “The kiss?”
I pulled away from him and stood up quickly.. What had happened to my senses? What had happened to those lessons about stranger danger? No, this couldn’t be right. He wasn’t like anyone I had ever known. He was a kid. He was a foreigner. He didn’t speak English. He probably wanted a green card. He probably wanted a Black woman experience.
Standing directly in front of me, he put his arms over mine as if he would embrace me, but he didn’t. I looked up at him and lifted my own questioning eyebrow. He did not move nor did his expression change and so I knew it had to have been me who had given in and allowed my body to sink into the protective concave of his. A slight smile pulled up the corners of his lips.
Irritated with myself, I pulled away again. This time I walked a few steps towards the edge of the ledge. Peering into the darkness I could see across the grassy expanse out to the empty soccer field. Summer had quickly come to a close, and now only the dim perimeter lights were kept on. I knew I had to get away from Adnan. I had led him on, knowing from his first comment what he wanted. They all wanted the same thing though they were never this obvious on the first date. I had let myself down again. I contemplated running back down the narrow path and heading into the comforting warmth of the coffee shop, but he was right behind me. I could almost hear his heart beat in the cold silence.
“Are you leaving me?” he asked. It was too familiar a question. He had made too many assumptions about me. I didn’t answer, but before I could bend down to pick up my bag which I had left discarded on the ground, his voice penetrated the night. “Don’t. Please? Stay.”
I didn’t know what to do or say. I was wrestling with my attraction for a man 20 years younger than me. Before I could decide, Adnan grabbed both sleeves of my jacket and gently pivoted me around to face him. His eyes showed his determination, and as he opened his mouth he intoxicated me with the smell of cinnamon and spices.
“You smell like pumpkin spice latte.” I interjected nervously since I couldn’t think of anything intelligent to say. In actuality, I thought he smelt of urgency and promise.
“Then you already know how I taste like.”
His meaning couldn’t be clearer as the cool tip of his thin nose nestled into the folds that gave mine definition. His lips hovered close and even though I had already told myself this was a bad idea I felt powerless to stop. I had not meant to run the tip of my tongue so slowly; so deliberately; nor so seductively over my lips, but when I caught myself, my eyes had already closed and I had already turned my face up to his.
“Please. You know this is not right. Please, I don’t know you,” I started to mumble as my lips gently vibrated off his. It was too late. I had already felt the weight of his lips effortlessly parting mine, and my traitorous tongue had already doubled over in acrobatic moves in his mouth.
I didn’t shake in giddiness as I thought I might. His kiss was like nothing I had expected; nothing like I had experienced, and as he held me and kissed me, I felt the world vanish. Void of thoughs; doubts; questions even feelings. Like the completeness of nothing: Nothing I could compare it to. It was just.
Adnan, if you ask me again to describe our first kiss, I could only tell you that for me it felt like finding shelter in a warm cab on a stormy night. If you ask me again to tell you about these last few years; then I’d have to say, finding you has been like stepping out of that cab and coming home.
Copyright © 2015, Susan M. Wolfe~All Rights Reserved
27-04-2015/The Stranger’s Kiss