“I’ve a secret to tell you,” he said.
My interest was piqued.
We had just finished talking about something New York-related, and I wondered what fun newcomer story he was about to unveil. Did he sneak into that Greenwich village music store he wants to work at and watch the owner carve out a new instrument? Or had he made some uncanny remark to a stranger again? I squeezed his hand, feeling the warmth of his body, and waited.
“I like you,” he said.
Those three words — better than any funny story, always. They caught me off guard. He was looking at me in the eyes during those few moments of silence that followed like a trail of invisible cars attached to a sunny train. In the quiet of my mind, I felt the world come to a halt in this bed. “I’ve a secret too,” I said.
We still lay in bed for hours after that, tracing each other’s hands, kissing, talking in the afterhours of what had been an easygoing Saturday. At 5 a.m., he got up to go. My eyelids drooped by then, but in the sweet exhaustion of the night, I still craved his kisses.
At night, I dreamed crazy dreams of my ex-boyfriend, Julian. What a psychopath he’d been in real life. But in the dream, he’d come back to say he was sorry, and we were back together again. “It’s fine to make mistakes, but if you don’t learn from them…” said the voice of fate coming from the sky throughout the dream. We were on a bus going to nowhere. When we reached Julian’s home, he entered first, and I caught a glimpse of a woman sneaking around the back garden. I followed her, cornered her at the edge of the balcony. “If you don’t tell me who you are, I’ll scream,” I threatened her. “No, please! It’s not what you think!” she exclaimed, her powdered face distorted in fear. “I’m not his lover. I’m his…drug dealer.” She lowered her eyes and voice. “I deal coke. I give him a bit at the end of each month, just to help him take the edge off; the poor guy’s been detoxing from bad choices, bad memories, bad decisions.”
I wasn’t sure what to believe. He had a knack for playing the good guy in real life. I had a knack for not figuring him out. Was he again the good guy, “just a good guy who does bad things?” And was I falling for it once again?
I woke up this morning and made granola bars in the oven. Yesterday, I almost set the apartment on fire, after forgetting cooking oil on the stove. “Milk!” my neighbor had tipped me off, seeing me holding a flaming pot from her own kitchen next door. The milk had blown up the flames into a nuclear cloud that expanded over the whole kitchen before dying in a second. The ceiling had been left black.
I looked up at the stain as I stood in the sunny kitchen this morning, the aroma wafting up from the oven. I lay the spatula on the floral tablecloth and leaned against the counter, thinking of the boy. After one of the most electrifying kisses of my life, we’d had no words, just lain there breathless, his head in the crease of my neck, our arms intertwined. Did you feel that? I asked him in my head. I felt it.
Later, his hands had reached under my shirt, but I had stopped them in their tracks. He hadn’t tried again. I wasn’t ready, and that was fine. An amazing concept. “I’ll see you sometime,” he’d said at the door this morning. I smiled and kissed him on the cheek, on tiptoes. There was a calm excitement at the pit of my stomach, and the warm thought of the prospects ahead: sinking into a cozy comforter and waking up to the sweet granola bars.