As I climbed the stairs, I became acutely aware of the fact that this was a date, not a casual networking meet where the guy flirts and I try to keep it business. I had agreed for this one to be a date and that made me feel conscious. Did I look ok, was my hairdo looking awkward. I was split into one cold and practical person who thought this was just a casual meeting with a musician who she really wanted to connect with and another person who was looking forward to a date and wanted to leave this person with good memories about her.
As he walked towards me to greet me I froze because I had to recondition myself to be warm and friendly and not cold and distant. I was expecting a quick friendly hug but he wrapped his arms around me and held me close for a second and I was pleasantly surprised by the hug and by myself. Usually hugs make me want to push away the person and build a wall that he must not cross. But this time I didn’t feel repelled at all. It didn’t feel like I must just tolerate and get past the hug for the sake of politeness.
And so that night I genuinely smiled and felt amazement at this warm and positive person who seemed to be wanting a casual emotionless relationship for fear of emotional investment. Yet his actions showed warmth, respect and a desire to have something more meaningful with someone than just physical intimacy. There was no false flattery, no manipulation or deceit nor direct comments on physical desires that I had seen so far. He seemed to have little experience with the ways of someone who wants to have a casual fling with a girl.
And so I genuinely smiled and felt positive and didn’t hold myself back. We spoke about music, he shared his story of how he learnt to play the keyboard in his childhood and when he started to feel good about it, how he learnt to play with two hands in few days’ time because he got a second chance to play in a college band after getting rejected once, his relation with his parents, things that are important to him, how he respected my decision to leave my job and take up music full time, how he thought I could improve my singing. We spoke a lot about music and we wouldn’t stop talking. There were hardly any pauses. What I didn’t realise then was I was getting quietly impressed by his determined nature, his proficiency in music, his sense of affection towards his friends and sense of responsibility towards his parents. At that point of time all I noticed was some feelings of amusement at how he kept affirming that we had spent so long talking without realising the time so it meant that we had a good date and how he was surprised by my choice of location for the date/meeting. It seemed to have overwhelmed him and his fear somehow amused me because I considered myself immune to being affected by feelings.
As we took a walk in the neighbourhood of the restaurant he asked me if he could hold my hand and I laughed. Who asks. My ex would sort of just make our hands subtly bump into each other and suddenly hold it tight. And I would get pleasantly surprised. That warm memory of holding hands was somehow very special to me and since we broke up I would pull away when someone would try to hold my hand. But my ex was no longer special and this guy had asked so politely. You don’t discourage when someone treats a girl with so much respect. I was used to people who spoke of respecting the girls in their lives yet their actions showed a sense of entitlement and dominance. The irony made me laugh though I shyly said yes.
“Why did you laugh when I asked?” He enquired as we walked side by side holding hands.
“Because you asked. I’m not used to it.” I replied simply. It was hard to go into complex explanation. It didn’t seem apt for the sweet moment we were having.
“Don’t worry. I don’t have that kind of feelings for you. I just find you physically attractive.” Despite myself, despite things being already clear between us, my heart sank. So he didn’t find me attractive as a person. As a person I could be anyone it didn’t matter to him as long as there was a possibility of physical intimacy.
“You smell good. I guess I am being upfront but this is how I am. I find you physically attractive. There was a moment there when I wanted to kiss you.”
“Can I? Can I kiss you?” he asked.
“No.” I said. The thought of kissing felt too much suddenly.
He didn’t protest. No expression of disappointment. No subtle attempts to guilt me into saying yes. Usually I would’ve given in to guilt and distanced myself later. That’s me. I play my part obediently in a show run by the opposite person without asking questions. And one day it gets too much and I close the book without warning. This is what I was used to. It allowed me to remain a cold unattached observer able to walk out the moment I chose to do so. But this guy was treating me with respect while simultaneously telling me that I as a person meant nothing. Why did I not protest? Why did I not speak my mind? Because I was confused about what was hurting and what was endearing. And I was afraid I would say something that would drive him away. After getting abandoned once I had carefully made sure that I would never be the one getting abandoned, I would be the bird that flies away when she chose to, not the other way round. Never the other way round.
I booked a cab and literally wanted to run away from there before I said anything to ruin the beautiful night. As I was taking leave he hugged me and yet again it felt so warm and safe. He held on a second longer and kissed my forehead. I looked at him surprised and he looked away with a slight smile that he couldn’t hide. And yet again that exposed his pure affectionate side that I found so endearing.
As the cab drove away I closed my eyes and held on to that hug and kiss for as long as I could. Because I knew from experience that it would not last forever. Did he know he had shown affection and respect to a person who had only experienced lust, deceit, force and violation? There was only one other person who had done this before and he too had changed when the break up left him with feeling only hatred and occasional longing for physical intimacy alone. Did he realise that he had stirred emotions in a heart that since then only smirked and felt disgust when men expressed their emotions for her. It was hard for him to understand. But it was getting difficult for her to dismiss him and forget. That made him dangerous. Beautiful though that night was she knew that he had opened some doors she had locked away forever and she didn’t have the freedom to just fly away when the time comes. So she had to escape now before it was too late.