25 June, 2018

Admiration - a short story

His eyes were the kind that held secrets, pain, and joy - not always all at once and not always in that order. His beautiful brown skin grew progressively darker – almost by watching it – as we sat outside during what seemed like the hottest day in the world on a rare Saturday together.

He sipped coffee; steam lifted from the standard white mug adding to the aroma of the busy tables of brunch around us. He spoke about work, friends, passions, and current projects and I watched him while happily munching away on bacon and endless cups of tea.

He seemed to know about everything, a perpetual learner; always happiest when pursuing new ventures, professionally and personally. Some of the most interesting things I’ve learned have come from his ‘did you know?’ musings. Did I know that Cranberry is the only Jell-O flavor that contains real fruit flavoring? That the Gulfstream G650 can fly almost at the speed of sound? That it is considered good luck in Japan when a sumo wrestler makes your baby cry?  

Introspective and inquisitive incarnate, he was the opposite of me in almost every way. Despite this he seemed to be drawn to me and me to him, and maybe not for a long time (we both knew this but neither mentioned it – a defacto elephant in every room we entered) but at least for now, that was enough.

“You seem so quiet, what are you thinking about?” A classic question asked when my comfortable silence was misconstrued with doubt or analysis.

“I'm just glad we got a chance to hang out. I never get to see you, I miss you.” My smile was genuine and my heart was full. I adored everything about him – his brown eyes, knowing looks, gentle touch… I felt complete around him. He returned my smile and sipped his coffee, gratefully distracted by a group sitting down at the table beside us.

I smiled back trying not to show the disappointment on my face. For someone so easy to talk to he was very strategic with his words and actions – carefully reacting to the things he wanted to and ignoring the rest. I was like a coffee mug – one he reached for first but replaceable if lost or broken.

He paused, aware the balance was upset. “You know how much I admire you. You’re amazing.” His hand reached out to grasp my wrist across the table. I knew he meant it. The waitress dropped the bill off in a small black envelope, breaking the moment. He took his hand back to reach into his wallet and toss a few $20 bills onto the table. “Do you want to get out of here? It will be nice to get out of this heat.” We got up from the table and he held the gate open for me as we crossed the street and towards my apartment.

I looked up at him; he didn’t love me. He squeezed my hand and kissed the top of my head as we walked hand in hand down the sidewalk, in line with other passersby. He didn’t love me but he admired me and at least for now, that was enough.

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