We meet everyday, same time, same place – after our shifts, around 3:30 in the morning at this subtly existing café at the corner street where we worked. Between the two of us, I was the one who never arrived on time. My manager would always find something to talk to me about 5 minutes before my shift ended.
It was almost 4 when I got there. I saw her at our usual table, looking at her phone, probably wondering where I was. Her small, delicate hands held a bottle of beer on one and a cigarette on the other. I was almost at the table when she looked up, saw me and smiled. She had beautiful teeth enhanced by the fact that her mom was an orthodontist. I sat next to her, not too close but I could smell her cologne – fresh, clean with a hint of nutmeg.
She lightly kissed my right cheek and I could feel my face warming up despite the cold air blowing from the AC on the ceiling almost directly on top of us. I looked away and pretended to look for a waiter, wishing that she did not see me blush.
“So how was your day?” She asked while trying to light another cigarette.
“It was okay, just the usual stuff. How may sticks did you have before I got here?”
“Just one,” but she said that grinning and I knew she was just saying that to make me stop asking. I have been telling her about the bad effects of cigarettes on our lungs but to no avail. She said she was trying but I doubt it.
It had been like this everyday for the last month. We’d meet up after work, just the two of us, and we’d just hang out and talk over a few bottles of beer. My friends were already starting to ask me my whereabouts because they could not find me these past weeks between 3:30 to 6:00 in the morning. I was giving them the same excuse for almost 5 weeks now – just home, trying to get enough sleep and my phone was showing signs of defect. It frequently failed to notify me that people have been trying to reach me after my shift.
I told myself that I was not doing anything wrong but a little voice inside me was playing devil’s advocate. Why I was not telling them the truth then? I refused to answer, even to think it. Instead, I just focused my attention on her. Looking at her was like looking at my own reflection – seeing the similarities and contradictions, like staring at her under motley hues but still seeing me. She has short brown hair that fell off just below her ears. Her Chinese blood showed on her smooth, fair skin and her really straight hair. Her eyes were just like her mother’s – almond shaped and brown especially under the light and her lips, just small, soft looking and pale pink in color. Her features were more feminine that mine. In contrast, I had long black hair and brown skin. My eyes were almond shaped too but dark were so dark they almost looked black.
“What are you staring at?” The blush that quickly spread on her cheeks did not escape me. I felt a little twinge of joy but I suppressed my grin. I just faked a cough and motioned for the glass of water sitting next to her beer.
“I was admiring that painting behind you,” I said when my fake cough subsided.
“Right, right,” still giving me that knowing smile.
I did not know what to say so I just smiled, too sweetly and coyly as I intended to. I told myself to stop this bizarre behavior as I was starting to get really nervous.
“Maybe, it’s time we talk.” She said, a little bit seriously. My heart pounded in my chest the minute I realized that this would be the moment that we were both avoiding for a while – a conversation about what was happening to us.
“It’s been a month, you know. We’ve been doing this everyday – meeting in this semi-darkness and away from our friends and I am beginning to wonder if this is what you want.” She said that with very few pauses like she did not want to think anymore.
I had been thinking the same thing for a couple of weeks now, analyzing what we were doing, what I was feeling and what she must be going through. Thing was, I did not even know why we were hiding in the first place. It was easy to invite our friends so what was stopping us from doing so. Why are we being so careful around them, it’s not like we were dating. Or are we?
“Sarah.” Even her name sounded delicate. She looked at me without saying anything. “What’s happening to us?” I added after a moment of silence.
“I think I am in love with you.” There it was – a statement which confirmed one of the reasons we meet at this ungodly hour. I just stared at her while she continued, “I know you have never been with a girl before and this would be really difficult…” I could not say anything but what she was saying filled me with an overflowing sense of delight so I just moved in a little bit closer, kissed her and thereby stopped her in mid-sentence. It was quick and surprising. Her dainty little lips tasted like beer and toothpaste. I just told her what words could not say at that point.
“That was nice.” She said after reaching for my hand. It felt so soft against my candle-like fingers. I smiled at her just savoring the moment and told myself that I could get in big trouble but what the hell; I’d worry about it tomorrow.