Chapter Eleven

Romance, Story

I didn’t know how he did it, being around him felt like an out of body experience. The heaviness that had become too familiar, that had become my acquaintance was non-existent around his presence, surges of tumbled up giddiness, fluttering butterflies in my stomach and heated body has replaced the usual sadness, he made me feel renewed and alive. I felt light and free, I think that was the greatest thing to ever experience. Holding his hand, interlocking my fingers seemed like an innocent act, but it felt like he had my whole world in the palms of his hands, the intimacy, the gradual growth of synergy of our connection developing, feeling his touch all over my body. The simplicity of him feeling my fingers sent sparks through my veins, awakening something I had never felt. The nervousness kept me company briefly until we started laughing at the random conversations we would have as we sat down on the floor, looking over the view of Manhattan. People were coming and going, taking pictures and awing at the pictorial display that is Manhattan, and yet, that didn’t stop the bubble me and Ricardo had created. As minutes, hours passed by, our hands would get closer, our body brushed each other, the touch barely there but the heat and fireworks would work their way through my body.

“Tell me about your family,” I asked, aware of another boundary we were crossing, familial topics were personal and touchy for most people, and it seemed like it was for him too. His body was immobile, his eyes were looking straight out through the glass window, his eyes lost their sparkle I had become used to seeing, and now regretted even going there. “I’m sorry, it’s okay if you don’t want to talk about your family, I know it is a personal topic,” I whispered, running my head to find vocabularies that will lessen the developing tension inside Ricardo, and between us.

He sighed as he bent his head down. “I am not close with my father since he is not really home much. I am grateful for my mother, she has done so much for me and Samira, to make sure that we are good, food is restocked, that there is electricity and gas in the house, she is a superhero. I have a sister, my little sister, she is 10 years old. Me and her run this town, or so I say to her whenever she is sad,” he laughed at that, admiring the sound naturally bubbling out from him. “She gets bullied in school, and she just has this attitude about her whenever she comes back home. She would sigh and slump her shoulders, throwing her backpack away and asks why we even go to school and why kids are so mean. I do everything in my power to protect her, keep her safe and give her a good life. So, when she tells me what happens I do go into school and ask the kids who pick on her, what’s up, the next day she comes home and she is happy, that is comforting to know. Anything I do in this life will be for my family, for giving Samira a life I didn’t have, I don’t want her to be in a neighbourhood that doesn’t protect women, I don’t want her to be a broken black woman. It is a heavy burden to carry.” His eyes had a faraway look, his eyes looked dreamy, my heart bloomed at his openness, vulnerability, and his love for his family. I swooned at the way he talked about his family, his protective instincts towards his sister, and the need to provide her with a life that he didn’t have. Feeling his words inside my heart, and wishing I had someone like him in school. I did tell my older sister about the boy who would bully me, and she would pay a visit to the boy with her friends during lunch time, and he would stop for a few days, but then continue. It was hopeless to ask her, because it would happen anyways, my friends saw but they never said anything, they would stand there and be quiet, I know it wasn’t their responsibility, but neither is it my fault for being picked apart and bearing to tolerate terrible words that were thrown at me by people that never knew me or just because I existed.

“I pray that you get the wishes and desires in this life, Ricardo,” I murmured, meaning it.

“Let’s get out of here, let me take you to the promenade, the lights are coming on,” he suddenly said, rubbing off imaginary dust from his joggers and looked down at me with expectancy. “Come on, Kalina, let’s go,” he urged, I got up with my backpack at hand, I viewed the Manhattan view for the last time, I followed Ricardo out to the elevator, the both of us stealing glances from each other. Both of us brushed a laugh whenever we got caught, my body heated up from his nearness. I watched Ricardo through the mirror, he nervously rubbed the back of his neck, chuckling to himself.

“What are you laughing at?” I smiled at our own quirks when being in unfamiliar situations.

“Nothing, you are different, I can’t figure you out. You become more interesting the more I get to know you,” he truthfully let out, shaking his head as if in disbelief. My heart thudded against my chest, tears welled from the deep webs of my eyes, he didn’t know how much his words affected me, cracking the insecurities and words that have been said to me with harsh intentions for five years. He cracked something when he gave me an honest compliment. Hastily blinked my eyes so the tears don’t fall, what do I say in reasoning? I am crying because of your compliment, your words were a breath of fresh air from the horrible words that were drilled into me, that I was starving for someone to think of me differently and say nice things to me. I guarded my face, pushed my hair forward so, he wasn’t able to see my face from where he was leaning against the wall of the elevator.

“Thank you,” I croaked, he didn’t know how much his words meant to me and he wouldn’t know, I didn’t want him to know. “You’re interesting too.”

“Thank you,” he repeated, releasing a deep chuckle, the sound reached into my heart and blossomed. We walked side by side to the subway station to Brooklyn Heights Promenade, it was six in the evening, it was still daylight in the early September. People rushed to their destinations, cars honked profusely arguing with other drivers, the bustle of New Yorkers not dying down. Ricardo started to run down the stairs, “come on, Kalina, we’re gonna miss the train, come on,” he rushed, looking back at me as he ran. Too familiar with running for the trains, my life of running for the tubes on the underground in London flooded back to me. I broke into a smile, speeded with him for the subway, adrenaline bursting through my veins, catching up with him. We were both successful as we leaped inside the train, ignoring the weird looks and appreciating those who ignored us. Ricardo and I laughed whilst catching our breath, the subway was so full I felt like my body was going to drown, it was jam packed with people. The crowds of people pushed us closer, the adrenaline from running disappeared and the dull intensity from his proximity reappeared. My loose breath became choppier, his warm breath fanned over my face, closing my eyes instinctively, each jolt from the trains pushed us closer until my head was leaning on his chin and his arm wrapped around my back, closing my eyes and taking in the sensations that have risen from his closeness. I let go of him when less and less people were on the train and there was enough space to move away, avoiding his eyes, too anxious to see his expression. The fear of having crossed another boundary reflected the emotion I was feeling on my eyes and so, I looked to the ground, fixating intently on the old, plain grey tiles until we got off.

The gust of wind was refreshing, appreciating the gentle air as it caressed my skin, and blew my hair away from my face. I turned to Ricardo to see his eyes already on me, I sent a smile his way, but he hadn’t returned the gesture. A pinch clamped my heart, my brain over-riding itself, paranoia and insecurities turned its head, maybe he regretted asking me to come with him, maybe I overstepped when I leaned on him for support, should have used a pole for support instead, despite it never being on my mind at the time. “I’m sorry if I overstepped, shouldn’t have gotten too close to you, I am sorry for invading your personal space, and for putting you in an awkward position. I should go home,” I said in one breath.

“No, no it is okay. Don’t worry about it, I understand,” he returned, clearing his throat, “we are almost here so, might as well stay,” he whispered as an afterthought. I nodded in response, forcing a smile, the familiar sensation of anxiousness left me crippled, befriending me through the walk. I realised that Ricardo has stopped, lifting my head up, I regarded the barrier we were standing against. There was a sea of water in front of me, looking straight ahead, I gasped at the sight. I turned my head side to side, I didn’t know where to look, I could see the Brooklyn Bridge from here alongside, the view of the skyscrapers, statue of liberty was situated to the side, the sun beaming as the colour red cascaded around the star. My mind was loopy and airy, “wow,” I muttered, that one word repeated itself, the lights started to illuminate, they were shining, and blinding against the dusky skies. The mirage of buildings was merged in symphony, forming perfectly with the bridge, “wow,” I whispered, the words leaving in a barely their breath. We were silent for a good moment, taking my time seeing the city views, “it’s beautiful, Ricardo,” I finally differentiated, remembering that he was with me.

“Yeah, it is beautiful,” he whispered, rotating to the side to see his eyes on me. An emotion misted his face, my face warmed at the indication of what his words meant, when his eyes were looking at me instead of the skyscrapers. A low chuckle vibrated from his body, shaking his head the same way he did in the elevator, “you coming to the community?” Ricardo said after moments of silence.

“Yeah, I am coming. I like it, I like the way it makes me feel.”

“Come say hi, okay?”

“Okay,” our eyes touched together in a wordless conversation. No words needed to be said for what was happening in this moment and for what happened throughout the whole day. We liked each other, no amount of insecurities and paranoia could take away that gut instinct but, it never mattered for Ricardo didn’t want me, the tightness resurfaced itself. After exchanging words, we stood in silence looking out at the city’s skyline, once the cold had gotten harsher, we decided it was time to leave. We got back into the station to my home, Ricardo waited outside the edge of the stoop until I was inside the house, waving a goodbye and he returned it with a wave too, smiling whilst the heaviness stayed inside my chest. Whether we say or acknowledge it, something happened today, we were meant to meet each other, it was an inevitable incident, and it changed the way I saw the world, setting the tone for the rest of my life. My head fell on top of the pillow, grateful for a dreamless sleep. I just didn’t know how impactful our meet was going to be ten years later.

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