Chapter Twenty

Creative Writing, Story

It was quiet whilst Lena was taking notes, the couch was soft and fluffy on my back, as the white walls stared back at me. There was a crack near the light fixture if you look closely, and marks of imperfect paint and lumps on the ceiling. The sirens blared loudly, and the honks were furious beneath the 15th floor. “Have you had any more dreams?” Lena asked in a calming tone, I felt her eyes on me – neutral and open; careful and perceptive. It was quiet as I took my time answering the question. My heart hurt and burned, that was the one familiar feeling my body has accustomed to the thoughts to. It could be a fleeting memory, an imagination, an object, people, a lyric from a song, a storyline of a film, a line from a book, a street, to the moon and the stars.

No words could illustrate the photogravure of a hurting heart, “Lena, you know it,” I voiced, not wanting to say anything.

“Kalina… it’ll soothe the pain. Don’t block it, don’t deny it, don’t bury it, or keep it to yourself. It’ll only hurt you even more, when you don’t speak, acknowledge or are aware of the emotional turmoil within you. It’ll create a sensation somewhere inside your body and spread around your body, the pain-body growing more and more, consuming, painful, and unbearable to the point of the pain being the only thing you know. The living pain is the only thing you’ll be familiar with, you’ll create an identity with it, form a story of yourself with it, and it’ll thrive in your mind, body, and soul.”

“I can’t do it, Lena,” I expressed, my voice breaking with the heightened gushes of emotions.

Lena brought her chair closer to me but still maintained a distance, “come on, you can do it. Take your time,” this was a routine exchange. She knew. She knew everything. “Was it worse than your past dreams?”

I nodded my head, a tear slid down my face, and dampened my hair. I got up when the feelings became too heavy, shaking my body and wriggling my arms to steer the focus from the intense feelings.

I closed my eyes, the dream coming like a flashback, revisiting me like a camera’s broken film, my mouth opened, and the words were relieved. “I was walking alone in the street, heading for the promenade. We spoke earlier and I was excited because I was going to see him again, this time about the future and make plans of what we were going to do. There was still daylight streaming through the air as the sun was setting behind the Statue of Liberty and the concreted building lights came to life. I saw the mother with a stroller, a woman in all black running and two dogs barking at each other as they were passing by. Then the chilled busyness died down, and there was one person every other hour, but it wasn’t him. I waited, I messaged and sighed as my body shivered from the late evening breeze. I checked my phone, but there was nothing. There was no one in the promenade now, it was quiet, creepy quiet and the buzz was dying down. My phone pinged with a message, and it was from him.” My sinus was congested as tears poured down from the mere memory. I breathed in and out, following Lena’s mouth, her mouth was opening and narrowing, and the body tucked in and then out. I followed the body, inhaling and exhaling, my heartbeat pumping quick, my body hot, and tears not calming down.

“What happened, Kalina? What happened at the end?” Lena urged, her chair edged closer to me, and her hand was over mine in a comforting gesture.

“I was falling from the building where they ran art workshops. blood was everywhere, and I couldn’t move. I felt the liquid, I felt the blood coming from my back, I realised it was mine. It was coming from my body.” The tears stopped somewhere between me speaking again to the last word spoken, the dull ache kept my heart alive. “I saw him on a billboard in a New York street yesterday. He made it,” I smiled, my eyes were wet, my heart was in flames, and yet my mouth was smiling, my body released pheromones of pride. Somewhere amongst the pain and suffering, there was pure happiness reserved just for him. “He did it,” I faintly whispered, more for myself than Lena.

Lena watched me closely, I didn’t realise when her chair was further away from me and back to the designated place in her office, “have you indulged?” She said quietly.

I shook my head, ashamed of myself, I was weak and had no self-control. “I did, I did indulge. I heard he’s a talented man,” I said, releasing a laugh.

“How does it make you feel?”

“It makes me feel at peace, safe. I could feel his presence,” I whispered.

“Have you done anything else?” She asked, her eyes not showing anything and her face relaxed and inexpressive.

“No, nothing else,” I lied. “You look prettier today, you did something different,” I said, seeing her usual dark-haired sleeked back bun, formal attire of blazer, blouse, and straight trousers. Her dark skin was more bronzed than usual and her jewellery was kept to minimal. “Have you been anywhere tropical? Your skin tone is more tanned.”

“Kalina, stop diverting,” she reprimanded, a smile shadowing her face.

“Just tell me,” I insisted, needing a diversion.

“Yes, I went on a holiday. Happy?” She returned.

“Ooohhh where did you go?” I asked.

“Kalina,” she warned, eyeing me sternly.

“What?”

“You’re diverting. We can talk after the hour had finished. Right now, we are here to talk about you, so…” she paused.

  •  

My phone pinged with Micah’s text, “we’re here, let me know when you are on the way!”I texted back with a “will do.” I hailed a cab after the fifth raised hand, they pulled the car into the curb, and I went behind the back. I told him the address and he nodded. I conversed with him along the way. He was a 64-year-old Indian Punjabi man from Queens who immigrated from India 30 years ago. “Where are you originally from? Your accent is different,” he questioned, his twang was distinct, mixed with an American-Punjabi accent.

“I come from the United Kingdom, I used to live in London and that was 10 years ago,” I replied, finding our conversation to be an exchange like a family relative.

“Oh, that’s nice. I have family in Luton.”

“That is close to London, have you been to any other cities?”

He shook his head upwards, watching sideways for any approaching cars. “I’ve been to Birmingham, and London, they both have a big Punjabi-Indian community, especially in places like Handsworth and Southall.”

“That’s very true, there is a big South Asian community in the U.K.” The conversation continued with his family, my family, his life, and my life in New York.

“You can be legal here through marriage,” he said once our talks went to citizenship and immigration.

“No uncle, no marriage, maybe through education. I just finished my last internship in the New York Times.”

“That’s good, I’m happy you chose education over marriage. I am glad you said that.”

“Me too,” the exchange of conversation between us was so incredibly fulfilling and wholesome, I have never met an elderly South Asian person who I was able to have an hour’s worth of conversation with and so easily too.

“Thank you so much uncle ji. How do you say bye in Punjabi?” I asked, my cheeks hurting from smiling too much.

“Sas ri akaal or phir milenge,” he smiled.

“Sas ri akaal uncle ji, thank you and stay safe uncle ji.” I said, waving goodbye as I walk around the car.

“Thank you, sas ri ‘kaal,” he returned, raising his hand as a bye.

I went inside the building, through the sparse crowd, through the familiar doors to the corridor, having memorised the direction from years of spending most of my life here. Once I made a turn, I heard an ‘aye’, the grin formed itself from the knowledge of who it was. I shook my head when I saw his wide grin along with the two other perky smiles. “Ayee,” he started again, “she has made it,” he said, his arms raised up and I walked into them as I embrace my lifelong friend.

“I told you I’ll make it on time,” I returned, my grin widened when I saw Aphrodite, Alejandro was right behind her. I moved from Micah to greet Alejandro and Aphrodite, feeling myself get giddy. “How are you?” I squealed to Aphrodite, “how is the baby? My sweet Ava,” I asked, looking at both Alejandro and Aphrodite for the question. Alejandro wrapped an arm around Aphrodite’s shoulder, bringing her closer to him, “she’s okay. She’s with my mama. Sleep is non-existent, it is a miracle at this point,” Alejandro said as he gazed at Aphrodite, she nodded her head in agreement, looking as though she’ll fall asleep now with her eyes drooping.

“You know, you can give her to me for the night, I’m auntie Kalina for a reason,” I said.

“Want to take her the next weekend? It’ll be nice to spend time with Ale alone,” she said, “what do you think?” She pointed the question toward Alejandro.

“Yes, you can,” he voiced instantly.

“I can take her, it’ll be a pleasure to take her, it’ll be my honour,” I spoke for extra measure.

“Done,” they returned in unison.

“Kali, you are next in the line-up, are you ready?” Micah rushed, bridging himself between me and Aphrodite.

I exhaled, “I’m ready,” I replied, “wish me luck,” I exasperated at the group.

“See you on the other side, Kali,” Aphrodite cheered as she and Alejandro make their way to be with the crowd. I held my gaze on Micah, remembering Lena’s breathing exercise she made me do as homework.

“Are you ready, Kali?” Micah said again, his eyes watching me carefully. I nodded my head as the nerves dissipated, walking behind him towards the black curtains. My nerves leapt as the crowd cheered, as the roars boomed higher, my anxiety spiking up at the sound. “You’ll be okay Kali, the stage is yours, and the people are your community, they are here to celebrate you,” Micah encouraged.

Once the act before me came backstage, the presenter went out, the crowd going crazy like the beating of my heart. I slowly walked forward when I heard my name being called out. My heart was pounding in my ears, my body was heating up, and my clothes began to stick to my skin. The stage curtains transformed into seas of people applauding and cheering, my heart not letting up. I cleared my throat, twiddling my fingers on the microphone. I placed my papers on the stand, I took a moment of looking out, watching for the familiar people in the crowd. Aphrodite raised her hand in a wave, Alejandro showed a simple smile, and Micah gave his thumbs up. I bowed down to see the words I had written, rubbing my fingers over the slightly crumpled paper. “This piece of writing is Talking to the Moon; I hope you like it,” and I started.

 “The clouds cocooned the bright moon; she was lustrous like a fluorescent light illuminating against the darkness. Stars sprinkled amongst the sky, flickering their celestial galaxies. The ocean was luminescent from the burning glow of the moonlight, the ocean created waves as they hit the shore, and the coolness washed over my sand pillowed feet. My heart full, my soul sound, enveloped within Earth’s nature. The crisp air clinched onto my skin, and the waves were moving in sync with the gentle gust of the wind. The silence was comforting, the tranquil sounds of crashing waves stirred my soul, feeling lightheaded and hazy, from the peace of my heaven.

I brought my knees against my chest and wrapped my arms around my body with the wind blowing my hair away from my face. A small smile danced around my lips, gazing up at the moon, and the moon emitted brightly away from the clouds, whispering sweet, sweet gratitude to the moon and the celestial orbs. “Nobody really knows what it is yet, we do feel it. We don’t know what it means yet, but we do seek it. We crave it. When we have it in front of us, we don’t see it. We yearn for love, regretting the missed opportunities and fearful for the future potential. Unclear about what the future holds; hoping, wishing, and wanting,” I said absent-mindedly, as the clouds circled the moon. The glow intensified almost as if my words were being heard. “We don’t know what love is still, we yearn for it. The pangs of longing sharpened within the chambers of the heart. I miss him. He isn’t listening. Can you see him? The thoughts of him filled my head. The stars can see him too huh. We don’t know what love is and yet, we yearn for it. Creating imaginations in our heads and being disappointed by our delusions. He doesn’t want me, wants me to wait for him.” I paused, gathering my thoughts. I looked up at the one star that was shimmering more deeply than the others.

The ocean ricocheted in rhythm with the stinging sensation unfurling within my chest. “Waiting. The highs of your hopes and lows of your dreadful thoughts of insecurities and uncertainties. You are the sacrificial lamb, who has to wait until it is convenient for them to want you. Waiting is like the tones of sadness prolonging, not knowing when the next storm surges. I miss him, he isn’t listening. Can you see him?” I questioned quietly, my nose tickling from the cold. “Waiting for someone is like willingly pausing your life, at an impasse. Waiting for them to come back and press play for your life to resume again, from when they were in your life. It’s not his fault, I suppose. I have chosen to wait because these hopeless feelings never falter. Feelings another crazy notion,” I murmured, my voice muffled from the notes of the fierce ocean. “Feelings… feelings… the unfamiliar sensations trickling through your veins, pulsing once it reaches your heart. The vessels of the heart pumped, thrashed against your chest and bloomed. It came alive once your eyes reach for the person that it desires. Galaxies intertwining and rejoicing from your reunion. Feelings are simple, delicate human experiences however, they can be paralysing and complicating when your being isn’t nourished. The foreign vibrations made you feel unhinged, crazy, and out of control. The Universe laughed at our despair but, soothed us with unconditional kindness of our blessings that are yet to come,” I ended. My fingers played with the sand. The moon rose higher, and the gleaming light glistened. The chaos was quiet as the being savoured Earth’s gifts. “I miss him,” I said, lightly. One lone tear travelled down my face, fading away into the sand. Staying still as the breeze tenderly touched my skin. My eyes closed, and my body was lax; a deep presence within me. I invited his energy, a soul presence that never left my heart, the comfort and security enwreathed my body, and gripped my heart. The moon was hidden behind the clouds, that one flickering star gone. The fallen, shooting star.

“He is listening,” whispered the Universe.”

Excerpts of Ricardo

Romance, Story

Chapter Four

Ricardo

I saw her on the first day of English Lit, she was sitting in the middle whilst I sat at the top row where nobody could see me, unless they were intentionally trying to seek me out. Her body was slouched and guarded as if she was trying to disappear, her body was frozen and still when Professor McCormick called out her name. Kalina is her name, I whispered her name in my mouth, played around with it, and emphasised the syllables, deciding that I liked her name, curious when she said that she didn’t know what she liked, and she wanted to be a poet, finding myself wanting to know more of her, enthralled by her. I was sitting on the bench near Washington Square Park when I saw her outside, she worn a smile which radiated her face, her body relaxed and happy as she talked to Micah, she was beautiful. I know of him, I see him all the time within the community, hanging out with Alejandro and Aphrodite. She was with Ezra and the three of them yesterday, she looked anxious and small around them, her eyes chaotically wondering everywhere and nowhere, her lips shaped in a thin line, arms crossed – a sign of discomfort. I saw her, she didn’t see me. Her long, black hair framed her face, her features were small and ethereal, her aura was mysterious. Seeing her again elicited a feeling of hope, but she didn’t see me not until now. Yet, that didn’t halt the pull of wanting to get closer to her and wanting to get to know her.

That moment when our eyes met, I knew she recognised me, that something foreign was happening to me when I felt nerves in my body and felt an unnamed emotion deep inside of me. There was no point though, there was no time for girls, I had to get my money, I had to get my life together. There were only two things in my life that mattered, and they were money and music. I didn’t have time for girls or feelings, I couldn’t, and I wouldn’t. I had a family I needed to take care of. Whatever it was, it meant nothing. Shit, maybe I need to have sex to get myself under control.

Chapter Six

“I can hear your music,” a deep voice said beside me, I scrunched my face in annoyance for coming in between my music. I paused the moment of Chester screaming in Lost in the Echo, as he stood on the side of the wall that I was leaning on. I was early for English Lit on the Friday morning, it was only me in the corridor until it wasn’t, it was the same nameless person that had piqued my interest. He smiled at me, my breath stopped momentarily at the sight, his eyes were crinkling, delving into his skin. The dimples deepened his cheeks which beautified his smile, enriching his face. I felt the warmth in my chest as his smile grew wider, I got caught staring which made me feel awkward and standoffish, “so, rock huh?” he began saying, the flutters inside my stomach intensified at the sound of his voice. His dark skin and kinky hair texture gleamed from the sunlight, enhancing his features. He was a beautiful boy, and he was smiling at me.

“Yeah, I like rock music, I like Linkin Park,” I said, my voice croaky in my ears, I cleared my throat and dipped my head down, the nerves amplified with each second passing by as we stood inches away from each other.

“That’s interesting, never have I thought you would like a genre so aggressive.”

“Hmm. So, you make music?” I asked changing the subject. He was quiet for a while, studying me, I felt his intense gaze in my stomach, and my heart was beating erratically, the sound of the rhythm drummed intensely in my ears.

“Yeah, I do,” he said slowly, trying to figure me out.

“I saw you in the event, you’re good,” I commented, speaking truthfully.

“Thank you, I saw you too. You want to be a writer?”

“Yeah, I do,” I repeated after him.

“That’s cool, are you going to the event?”

“Maybe, Aphrodite and the guys want me to go, I haven’t decided yet, I like spontaneity.”

“I’ll see you on Sunday, if you do end up choosing to come, say hi,” he said after a silent moment, leaving me stunned. I played our first interaction in my mind, releasing a smile from the memory, my body warm and fuzzy from his gaze and presence.

“All I need to know because that means the discussions, we will be having are going to be fairly easy. Kristen, I’ll start off with you, how do you define love and perceive the relationship between Romeo and Juliet? How does their family’s rivalry influence their love and romantic notions for each other?”

“Love is love, it doesn’t have a preference, ideals, concepts or social notions. Love is not something that can be controlled,” she ended, discussing, and evaluating the story in a three-minute discussion.

“Does anybody have anything to say against her discussions or add to it. Hmmm, I’m going to choose Ricardo. What do you think of love and the relationship between Romeo and Juliet?” I looked around the auditorium, trying to figure out who professor directed the question to, but I got nothing. Suddenly a voice bounded across the room, their gravelly, deep voice touched the base of my stomach.

“Love is freedom, love is liberation and harmony. Love can conquer all because it is an energy that vibrates with the purest essence of this life whether it is peace and joy, dreams, or hope, or a vessel used to detach ourselves from the ego. The depiction of love through Romeo and Juliet is that no matter how much hatred lives inside people, and where disharmony exists within the world, love can shine its light on the darkness and make you blossom, free you from the shackles of malevolent and poison of the humankind, and bind people through love, can bind humanity through love. The power of love, to feel that love sometimes you are willing to die with your love and for your love because there is no other, there is only truth and light in love,” there was a poignant silence infiltrating the space since his mouth opened. I felt the shock through my body, the curiosity that brimmed is now overfilling and consuming my body. Ricardo is his name and that just made him more interesting, it would be bad to say I never expected him to interpret the love tale like that but I am. He didn’t look at anyone since he started his perception of the story until he ended, when his eyes collided with mine and I felt like I could fly, my body felt light and heady, the longing for something I didn’t know of was weighing down my body.

Ricardo

I can see it in her eyes, the interest, and an emotion that I’m using my power to veil from her, I know the power of love, but that doesn’t mean I want to succumb or crumble in its will. I don’t want romanticism, and yet, I feel the pull of wanting to get closer, the drive reaching over my body, wanting to take me to her. What am I doing?

Chapter Seven

Ricardo

I strolled idly down the dark street, that one lamppost flickered its light for the whole street. A homeless man shouted after me for change, I brushed him off and carried on walking forward, watching my corners, turning my head behind me. One lone car speeded through the road, beeping, and calling out to a girl who had her head forward, eyes unblinking and body still and guarded, her hands on her pockets, walking breezily through the street. I shook my head at the misfortune of being a woman, it is only 10:00 pm at night, and woman are already being harassed on the street by low life men. I unlocked the front door and stepped inside the house, and it was hauntingly quiet. Father was out on his drunken stupor and Mother was lying down on the couch, no doubt waiting for him to come home. Not knowing why she bared him and continued the relationship even though there was no love in their marriage, it never helped anyone especially the children when the parent’s stay in a loveless marriage. “Hi mom, what are you doing here?” I asked her even though I know the reason, her face was forward towards the television, she was surfing the channels, but her eyes were elsewhere.

“I’m okay son, how was the event?” she returned, getting up on her elbows.

I leaned my shoulder on the doorway, crossing my legs together, and watched her flick through the channels, “it was fine. I found work I start work in a restaurant tomorrow so, I can help out.”

She looked at me briefly, before fixating on the television screen, her thin fingers staying on that one forward button, “that’s great news, are you sure? You don’t have to, and you need to focus on college, okay? Don’t get distracted by external factors, education is important, it’s the only way you can have a good life.”

“I won’t,” I reassured, “I love you.”

“I love you too,” I walked up the steps, the carpeted wood creaked loudly, the old paint in the railing pierced the skin beneath my hand. The distance was short from the stairs to my little sister’s bedroom. She was asleep when I peeked my head into her door, her bedroom was the only room that was put together and neat out of the entire house. I removed my shoes and tip toed to her bed, sat down for a moment, embracing the peace that comes with the silence. I closed my eyes and regretted it in an instant, her hair was blowing away from her face with the direction of the wind, her brown eyes illuminated from the dimly lit room, her form small and enticing, her brown colouring glowed and was luminous from the light, one small dimple deepening, her smile was beautiful and radiated her face, she’s an angel and I’m not worthy. It doesn’t matter what feelings or emotions get stirred up because of her, it doesn’t matter when my life isn’t the way that I want it to be. Nobody deserves to love a man that comes from a rough neighbourhood, a penniless man with a broken family. No point in loving a man who has pockets of dreams and still is so far away from where he wants to be.

“I love you, baby sister. I’ll give you the life that you deserve, the one that I didn’t have,” I promised, lying beside her, she moved for a moment and then stilled. A lone tear ran down the side of my face, coolness of the liquid wetting my skin. I’m sorry.

Chapter Thirteen

It happened in a slow motion, one moment we were talking, and the next moment I was on the floor, my butt prickling with pain, my palms burnt from the impact of the rocky ground. “Fuck, are you okay? Are you okay? Where are you hurt?” Ricardo frantically uttered, his words spewing all over the place.

“I’m okay, I’m okay,” I repeated, hoping he would hear me over his own voice. I lifted my palms to see the skin broken, scratched and red but thankfully, not bleeding, “see Ricardo, I’m okay.”

“Yo, the fuck was that? Can you not see where you are going you motherfucker?” He shouted, sprouted profanities at the passing man that wasn’t walking anymore. Ricardo stood up, striding toward him, “watch where you’re going, you hurt her,” he cussed, feeling tense at seeing his anger, his anger was rolling out of him.

“Who the fuck you think you’re talking to, what are you going to do, you little boy?” the man responded, shoving Ricardo’s shoulder, but he never slipped, he stood his ground, feeling a sensation at the pit of my stomach, Ricardo’s hands slammed against the man’s shoulder, roughly shoving him, the man lost his footing, the pit in my stomach intensified.

“Ricardo, Ricardo, I’m okay, see I’m standing up,” I hurried, rushing towards him, taking his arm to face me, “I’m okay, Ricardo, leave it alone,” I said, repeating the words over and over again.

“Watch where you’re going next time, you lucky she is here,” he darkly said, the man inched closer to Ricardo, bridging my body between them in an attempt to protect Ricardo. The stranger man stared blankly at him, then at me, shaking his head and then left. My stomach dipped at the sight of ruthlessness and aggression that was etched on the features of his face, his body tight and coiled, his intense energy was spreading and contagious.

“Come on Ricardo, leave it alone, I’m okay.” I didn’t know what feeling was inside of me, that sat inside of me, confused at whether that was anger, protection, or things to do with a male’s ego. “Why did you do that? You could have gotten hurt.”

“I don’t care, you were hurt,” he said in an instant, “are you okay, you hurt anywhere?”

I lifted my palms to his eye level, “just these, nothing ice or a packet of frozen vegetables can’t fix,” I laughed, trying to lighten the intense mood that had grown.

“You shouldn’t have seen me like that, are you okay?” he said, again.

“I’m okay,” I affirmed, “you were gonna get hurt,” I said, something akin to fear embedded within me.

“I don’t care, you got hurt,” he said as if those words meant nothing.

“Why did you do that? You should care about being hurt,” I emphasised, trying to understand the why of his response and actions.

“Kalina, you got hurt,” he said, his voice rising higher as if that made any sense and given a reason to go madman on someone.

“Ricardo, you could’ve gotten hurt, why would you do that?” I shouted as if that will help to get the words across to his face.

“You got hurt, Kalina. At the time, it made sense, I didn’t care about being hurt, because you got hurt,” he said as if I would understand. I don’t.

“But why would you want to get hurt for me?” I said, my voice getting lost towards the end, not getting any of it.

He came into my space, naturally I breathed him in, inhaling his scent. He cupped both sides of my face, he raised my head to his eye level, “Kalina, don’t you understand? I don’t want you to get hurt, I was hurting, seeing you hurt,” he slowly whispered, breaking down each word as if him saying it in a snail pace would make sense of anything that had happened.

“You were hurting because I was hurt so, you shouted and became aggressive to the person who hurt me?” I whispered, my mind repeated back his words, the emotions overpowering my senses. The liquid welled my eyes and streamed down my face, my breath coming out shorter, becoming harder to breath in oxygen, overwhelming me at the thought of his actions and why he did it. He did it because I was hurt, he defended me, he shouted at the man because I was hurt, he risked getting hurt because I was hurting, and he didn’t care about getting hurt. My eyes were blurry from the heavy set of tears, closing my eyes from the warmth of Ricardo’s fingers wiping each tear that had fallen from my eyes. “Why would you do that? I’m not worth that much, Ricardo,” my voice breaking in between words.

“You are worth it, you mean something to me, Kalina. You got hurt, seeing you like that, hurt me too, I don’t like nor want you to be hurt in any way.”

“Why would you do that though? You risked getting hurt.”

“I don’t care, Kalina, you are worthy to me, I would do it again, if I need to,” he said without hesitation. “I wasn’t exactly a good student in high school,” he added, a small smile shadowing his face.

“Ricardo,” I breathed, speechless, dazed, and confused, simply staring at him. He didn’t want me, he couldn’t, but he protected me, risked the chances of being hurt because of me, I felt lost, what did any of it mean? I drifted down his face, starting the journey at his forehead, moving to his eyes, such kind eyes, the ways he would look at me, those eyes gazed at me with acceptance. My eyes travelled down his cheeks, and those lips, the generosity of God’s work was prominent, but it’s not that, it’s the smile, so wide and wholesome and gave me so much life. My favourite was when he smiled whenever I did or said things in moments of dorkiness, it has given me so much pleasure and joy knowing I can do that. I didn’t even need to force the way I was around him. it came out naturally, the best part.

“I like you, Kalina, I can’t stop my feelings for you,” he whispered, somewhere deep inside of me believed those words.

I leaned my head on his shoulder on the train ride home, I found it sweet that he willingly dropped me off home, it was thoughtful, he was thoughtful, he was kind, accepting, funny, and beautiful. Universe must be playing with me because I didn’t deserve a boy like him, how did I get so lucky?

“Thank you, Ricardo,” I said.

“What for, Kalina?”

“For tonight, for everything,” I answered.

“Thank you, Kalina,” he repeated after me.

“What for, Ricardo?” imitating his words, both of us sharing a smile.

“For tonight, for everything,” the both of us laughing in unison.

“You gonna repeat everything I say?” I retorted lightly.

“Yeah,” he responded, like the last time.

“Shut up,” laughing at the same time, again. Ricardo’s raspy chuckle transformed into a deep, gravelly laugh echoing into the empty subway.

“Ricardo.”

“Hmm,” his eyes bored into mine, his smiley face staring at me.

“I like you,” I truth.

“Kalina.”

“Hmm.”

“I like you,” he said, I knew that there was truth in that statement. His arm wrapped around my shoulders, pulling me closer to his body, I drank in his presence, pushing my face into his chest. He was a beautiful boy and he liked me.

Chapter Fourteen

Ricardo

I took her hand in mine when we got out the subway, the crisp air was brisk, tickling my nose, tearing my eyes, and the condensation exhaled out of my mouth from the coolness. Revered by the sensations she provoked by her nearness and when our skin touched. Her tears, her being hurt and traumatised, the need to protect her even though I didn’t know what happened to her drove me up the wall, it wasn’t a curiousity, it was a burning flame of wanting to know everything about her. I didn’t need to think nor hesitate when it comes to keeping her safe, to protect her. I turned to look at her, her head arched up towards the sky, her skin glowed from the lit-up lamppost, her hair was blown away from her face, her face gave me a gentle smile, intaking a breath when the present resembled the same imagination I had when I was in my baby sister’s room. “You’re beautiful,” I whispered, saying it like it was the most natural thing. She smiled and I was content with her response, she came ahead of me, leading our locked fingers to the bench that sat two doors before her brownstone. I didn’t need her to tell me that she was well-off, or what her parents did when I found out where she lived. I didn’t care that she came from a family with money but when she did end up telling me the story of her father and her family, it made sense and all the more reasons to wait for her, to not be with her until I was able to stand on my two feet with success, taking care of my family and being able to be worthy of her. She doesn’t care where I came from, but it mattered to me, it mattered that my life was in shambles, and I’m not where I am in my life to be with a girl like her, she deserves the whole world, and I don’t have the whole world. Wait for me Kalina, wait for me.

Chapter Fifteen

Trigger warning: abuse, sexual assault.

Ricardo

“Hey Ricardo. Finish off with cleaning the tables, count the money in the till and then put the needed amount in. You can go home after, good job today,” my boss shouted as he went towards the back, to the kitchen.

“Thank you, sir,” I welcomed the silence, it was easy and peaceful. It was the calm before the storm, I embraced the serenity of being alone. My eyes closed and she appeared in my mind, her smile was wide, deepening the dent on her upper cheek, circles of small, small dimples dug on her smile lines, her eyes so bright that I could see the reflection of my face on her eyes, the dull ache within my chest had intensified. I didn’t know whether it was longing or the dilemma of my life. I miss her, I thought.

 

A loud bang resounded inside the house, it begun, and my body knew as the heaviness within my body provided me with company. “Stop it, please. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I’ll do anything,” the screams exploded across the house, the urge to escape was arduous.

“I hate you. I wish you were dead, slut,” he barked, my heart thudded laboriously against my chest, my head bowed down, internalising the shame I felt for my father. If hate was truly a feeling, then it was a sensation I felt for him. He thought I wasn’t here, he thought I didn’t know. But I did, I knew, I saw, I heard, and I felt, and I hated him for it.

It is a man’s job to provide, to love, and to show love, to be good to his wife and children but he was neither. He wasn’t a husband nor a father, he wasn’t a provider nor a saviour. He was a shell of a man. My mother was still whilst he screeched words at her, “I can’t wait to be inside of you, you don’t deserve nothing but terror,” he slurred, the alcohol in his system heightened his anger, a serum displaying his truth, of what he was truly made of.

“Please, Mark, please,” Mother pleaded. I wiped away the lone tear that escaped my eye, and walked into the room, intaking a large gulp of oxygen at the scene in front of me. God, did I hate him.

“What are you doing?” I said, intentional to not show the emotions coming to life beneath my skin. He looked at me, his eyes clearing the darkness that had consumed him. It was as if he was another man, as if he never realised the damage he does. He watched me, a look on his face, a face of shame, his secrets of terror he thought he hid so well was in full display.

“Nothing, I’m doing nothing son,” he voiced with loss, revolted by that word. At that moment Mother made a sound, her shoulders hunched down, and her knees and curls concealed her face. It didn’t matter because I already saw the blood, bruised up nose, eyes, and darkened cheeks.

“What are you doing?” I repeated, trying to wipe away the image of the front room from my brain.

“Nothing, I did nothing,” he returned, his eyes droopy, his pot belly protruded and his face wrinkled.

“My son, help me out,” Mother whispered, wincing with every move, clutching her night dress, her palm flat against her ribs. A surge of anger cursed through my veins but, I couldn’t react, Mother wouldn’t like it. It’s my fault, I should forget about working, and stay home so, nothing happens to anybody especially, Mother. Mark never touched me or my baby sister, Mother would hurry us up when he was home, she would hide us and shout at me whenever I protested. I know, there will come a time when something unforgiving would occur and I dread that moment because I am growing up, my responsibilities and role within my family has increased, now I’m not able to protect them.

“Let me say something to him madda,” I whispered, padding the cotton pads on her cheek, handing her a tissue for her nose.

“No,” she said at once. “Never say anything to him, it’s okay. I’ll be alright, it’s not about me, it’s about you and Samira, you two are my priority. You need to be safe and untouched, and allowing him on me will keep you and Samira safe from him.”

“No, madda. You leaving him, us leaving and going away would keep us and you safe and protected, leave him madda. Samira would appreciate it; you are keeping her safe and protected if you leave him. We can’t stay here.”

“With what money can I move away, son. With what money?” Mother whispered, shaking her head in disbelief, she didn’t have faith in herself, this is all she knew.

“I can help, madda. Let me help.”

“I can’t, you are my son. You are my responsibility, and this is my battle to deal with.”

“Madda, this had been going on for too long,” I said, her face filtered through my mind, pouring her soft, tender energy onto me, the peace of her aura washed over me like the holy water. Her being provided me with solace amongst the darkness around me.

“Madda, there is something in this world worth fighting for, waiting for, and having in this life. You deserve happiness and peace, madda. You need to do it for yourself, don’t stay in this space, don’t stay with him.” The face glimmered from the night sky, her face radiating joy and wonder as she viewed the night sky. I miss her, I thought. “There are people who you won’t know at first, who were complete strangers and then become nothing to something. Making life something greater than before. This life isn’t the only life you can have, don’t allow Samira to grow up with scars and trauma she doesn’t need, and you don’t deserve to hurt,” I whispered, wishfully hoping that the words are going through her somehow. Her body quaked with her cries, the wails ricocheted through the four walls of her room, bouncing onto me, and streaming through my soul. The boil of my blood was kept at bay as she graced me with her presence, dousing me with tranquillity.

“Everything will be okay, madda,” I consoled, the image that had calmed me disappeared as I am overcome with the need to protect my family.

Chapter Sixteen

“Would you wait for me?” Ricardo whispered. I stilled the movement of swinging my legs over the bench. The evening breeze was crisp, the air nipped my skin as it glided across my space, it was quiet between us, the both of us seated at the bench in the promenade overlooking the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge. I regarded him silently, wondering where that question came from, he hadn’t looked at me. In fact, he never looked my way, and he was unusually quiet, a dark aura masked over him.

“Why?” I asked.

“Wondering. I want you and I like you. But you don’t deserve to be in a life where I am not ready for you, physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. Would you ever wait for me?” he softly whispered, having a feeling that the answer I say would shift something inside of him, that somehow the response would be important to him. I regarded him, his eyes that have been honest, soft, and kind from the moment we had seen each other, his mouth that filled me with words that had soothed me, that had made me feel confident, to his body that had continued to make me feel safe, wanted, and comfortable to his words being a melodious balm to my soul.

“Why does it seem like what I say to your question would be important to you?”

“I don’t know” he shrugged, a thoughtful expression on his face. “Maybe it is, you mean something to me, you make my life extraordinary simply by being here with me. Would you wait for me?”

“I don’t know,” I answered truthfully. “It’s a big ask, who knows how long that would be. You may never be ready, you may want more from life, you may find something better because there is always something better. There are better things, better experiences, better woman, better beautiful women. What if you’re never satisfied with what life gives you? What if you never want me after you discovered the greater parts of life? You never know where life will take you,” the words streamed through my mouth with ease as if those thoughts have been unconsciously inside of me since the moment, we had spoken.

“I’ll always want you. You’re my angel, the light to my darkness,” he lightly murmured. My fingers laid flat on the bench beside my legs, I felt the hot sparks as his fingers tenderly reached for mine. Each finger pressed between each of my fingers, I dipped my head down to where our fingers were, in between our legs, sitting on the bench. His long fingers blended with my short fingers, portraying an image of someone watching over me, keeping me safe. “I’ll always want you, Kalina because you became important to me, life wouldn’t be the same without you. I won’t get this with anyone, I won’t feel this for any woman, not every woman resembles Kalina. There is only one Kalina and she is sitting beside me now,” he whispered, our fingers laced into one, sitting on top of his thigh. Our shoulder and thigh touched each other, I looked up at him, at his eyes that glittered like the stars in the night sky. I knew in these moments, this union between me and him were more than like and interest, it was earth bounding, it was greater than life, it was my soul and his soul coming together, in sync and beating rhythmically with each other, with the Universe. He was my celestial light, my Universe. He had my world in his and I knew that he always will, even if we are never together.

“What happens when life moves forward, if life evolves for you, you’ll tell me? Promise me, you’ll tell me when you go?”

“I promise, I’ll tell you when I go. When life moves forward, I’ll tell you,” he affirmed, his eyes open and honest, his fingers squeezed mine and his face came close to me. His mouth tilted upwards into a tender smile, his forehead pressed against mine, “I promise Kalina, I’ll come back for you. I won’t hurt you. Do you trust me?”

“I do,” I said in an instant. “You trust me?” I returned.

“I do,” he smiled. “Kalina.”

“Hmm.”

“I think I feel more than like.”

“Ricardo.”

“Yeah.”

“I think I feel more than like,” silence gathered between us before we burst the silence with our laughter. “You promise you’ll never hurt me?”

“I promise, Kalina. Would you wait for me?” he asked again.

“I don’t know. It’s a big ask. I’m afraid I won’t be emotionally secure for that.”

“Will you tell me who hurt you?” the anxious feeling crept up as soon as he let out the words.

“I- I don’t know if I’m ready. It is still fresh in my mind.”

“Whoever they were, they don’t deserve to be taking space in your mind, to be hurting you. Someone said to me, ‘you may never be ready for life.’ Sometimes you just have to say it without the thought of being ready because we may never be ready.”

“I know,” I sighed.

“They are dickheads too,” he added.

“They are,” I agreed, perking a grin from his reassurance, and understanding. “You are cute, you know that?”

“Kalina, only you can say that,” he muttered. For more exaggeration he looked around him, a man was running along the promenade and there was a woman walking her dog behind us.

“Don’t be so dramatic, Ricardo. There is no one here,” I huffed with a sigh of a laugh, which he responded with a gruff of a laugh like he was a boomerang.

“Come on.”

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“Anywhere. Been to a fair before?”

“Of course.”

“Ever been to one in New York?”

“Aren’t they all the same?”

“Maybe, do you like fairs?”

“I guess so.”

“Why is your mood so low?”

“I was comfortable sitting on the bench.” I muttered, he didn’t say anything in response, but he did roll his eyes.

We went to the subway to Greenwich Village, the fair was in Washington Square Park, well that was what Ricardo said as he dragged me to the train. There were rows of people surrounding the park, the Ferris wheel was grand as it stuck out from the rest of the rides. The multicoloured lights bright against the dark sky, children ran around me, laughing, and shouting at their parents. NYU students littered around the park, cheering, and whooping as fellow classmates danced whilst some sung. Some skated with no care in the world whilst others watched, the air of sugary dough wafted through the air and the smell of grilled meat hung in the air, streams of people stood in the long lines of rides and food spots, children held their parent’s hands and music resounded across the park, transforming the greenery space into a magical, fairyland.

“Where do you want to go?” Ricardo started.

“I don’t know,” I said quietly, getting lost in the actions that are taking place around me. “This is amazing,” I breathed, at awe of how the place had mystified and humanised the people.

“Come on,” he shouted, dragging me to a cart where they were making pancakes and crepes. On one side they had sugary sweetness and the other were savoury, my eyes were in a whirlwind as I watched the spectacle of the fairyland. “What do you want?” He asked, bringing me out of the magical daze. I studied the menu which hung on the wooden wall of the cart, innumerable options left me indecisive.

“I’ll just have crepes with sugar and cinnamon on top please.” I reached for my purse from my backpack, hurriedly handing my card just in time as Ricardo stretched his arm forward to give the person cash, relieved when the card pinged approved.

“Can I have strawberry pancakes with white chocolate sauce and white chocolate swirls please, thank you.” Once he ordered, we moved aside for the other people behind us to order.

“Kalina, that is the only time you are paying, okay?” Ricardo whispered perkily.

“Mmm,” I sounded, “you genuinely don’t need to pay for me.”

“It’s not about need, it’s that I want to. I want to be able to pay for you,” he said. “You don’t need to pay when you’re with me okay.”

“You won’t let me huh?”

“No, I don’t want you to.”

“What if we share the expenses, so you pay for the next one and then I pay for the one after?”

“No, Kalina. When you’re with me, I want to pay for you. Let me have this?” He said as if he wouldn’t budge, and he never wanted to budge.

“Okay fine. You can do it,” I said in admission.

“Order no. 9,” the crepe maker shouted.

“I’ll bring it,” he said before I even moved from where I was standing. I shook my head, floored in how he was with me. I watched his back, his face smiling up at the lady with my order. He came back to me, both of his hands laid flat on the bottom of the paper. “Coming back,” he hollered over his shoulder. My heart was overflowing, pouring incandescently throughout my body. He came over to me, groaning at the stack of pancakes, his features loose and soft around his hard edges.

“Why are you so nice to me?” I voiced, questioning whether he was a manifestation that had truly become my reality or a fragment of my imagination.

“Why am I so nice to you?” he muttered back, his eyes curious and confused.

“Mhmm.”

“You have been nice to me,” he answered, but then paused, his brows furrowed and thoughtful. “When someone is nice to you, you are nice back,” he simply worded as if that was the logical reason.

“That’s not always the case, Ricardo. You can be kind-hearted, have good intentions and be giving, but they’ll still treat you unjustly.”

“That is true. All the more reason to be nicer to each other, kind hearts will always recognise kind hearts,” he murmured. “But that isn’t the reason why I’m the way I am with you. You mean something to me, you are kind to me, a beautiful soul that only deserves good things happening to her. I can never be mean to you, it’ll hurt me.”

“You talk about me not deserving you, but it feels like I don’t deserve you,” I said when we found an empty bench to sit on.

“Maybe we needed to find each other to show that we deserve good things happening to us,” he uttered with a faraway expression.

“Thank you for being good to me.”

“Never say thank you to me, Kalina. Whatever I do for you is because you deserve it, I want and need for you to be happy when you’re with me. I need your smile.”

“You’re so kind,” I sniffled, the tears worked their floodgates again, and attempting to consciously breath in a futile manner to control my emotions.

“They’re not worthy of carrying that pain, Kalina. Don’t let them keep hurting you.”

“It’s not that easy,” I said.

“I know. Kalina.”

“Hmm.”

“You’re beautiful,” he whispered, his words illuminating my soul.

“Thank you.”

“Kalina.”

“Yes.”

“No more, saying thank you.”

“Hard adjustment to make.”

“Then I’ll keep on telling you, I’ll keep on reminding you. Come on,” he started.

“Where are we going?”

“Somewhere.”

“Where,” I persisted, he didn’t answer me. He took my hand, halting at the queue of the Ferris wheel ride. “Such a cliché,” I laughed.

“I can be a cliché… sometimes,” he retorted, wearing a smile on his face. I looked up at the Ferris wheel, it was high up in the clouds, the lights were like the gasses and knots from the constellation of Aquarius. We stood there for what felt like forever, anticipation sunk into my veins as the adrenaline sizzled beneath my skin.

“Next,” the man held the gate to the entrance, calling out for the next people in line. Ricardo pulled us forward, crossing the barricade to the Ferris wheel, people who were on the ride seemed jovial – lovers, family, friends, and those alone were mirthful and young. We stepped into the empty cabin, nerves amplified, and the crackle of adrenaline heightened. The man put down the safety rail in front of us and locked the door, the music resonated through the air, whirring as the mechanics of the wheel worked itself. Then the adrenaline streamed quietly away into nothingness, replaced with the feeling of awe, bewitched, and captivated by the commotion happening below me and above me. Fireworks exploded, and reverberated, shaking the ground from the vibration. The crackle of the rockets oscillated through my body and bounced up to the sky. The pyrotechnics shot through the seams, flowing into each other and flowered the deep sky.

“It’s beautiful,” I breathed, enamoured by my surroundings.

“Yeah, she is beautiful,” he worded, I turned to him. His eyes caressed my face, wearing a light smile. The lights gleamed heavenly across his face and his dark complexion shimmered lustrously against the beams of colours. His eyes were on me for what felt like the longest time, the sounds of the people echoed through the atmosphere. I looked away, the intensity consumed me with electricity and flutters purring through my veins. Mesmerised by the pictorial views beneath us and above us, the lights blazed and alighted the dark clouds. The moon glowed her snowy hue onto us, the night clouds wrapped around her, cocooning her, moving her like the waves. 

“I’ll wait for you,” I whispered, the Ferris wheel stopped at the top of the circle. The sights of the buildings were stunning, the flickers of lights blinked, and the seas of skyscrapers seemed infinite. At this moment, life felt infinite, connections are infinite, and I know this connection would be monumental to my life.

“You will?” He murmured.

“I’ll wait for you, come back to me, okay?”

“I’ll come back to you, Kalina. I promise you.”

“Okay. Ricardo.”

“Yes.”

“You scare me.”

“You scare me too.”

Authors Note: These are segments of the character Ricardo Opheseus from the selected chapters that reflect his character development, his POV and significant moments that takes place in his life. I hope you enjoyed reading. Chapter six, seven, thirteen, and sixteen are my personal favourite.

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.