He changed his hoodie to a beanie, his beauty stark and enhanced by the small difference. I watched him as he went up, feeling the mesmerised pull, wanting to get closer. But then my heart stopped, my body warmed up and my heart thudded crazily against my chest. He pulled the desk upwards and sat down, his clean scent travelled to my nose, my eyes were on him the whole time, swirling in a whirlwind of emotions in my head. “Hey.”
“Hey,” he laughed, his smile drifted to my heart, warming the chambers and pumping blood through the body. “Is that how it’s always going to be?”
“I don’t know, can I ask why you are sitting next to me?” I asked, remembering what he said the last time, and the memory of using him as an anchor to find light too fresh in my mind.
“I don’t know, my body led me here. I was walking up but then I saw you, I think I was drawn to you,” he absentmindedly whispered, his eyes guarded and regarding me with an expression that seemed like he couldn’t figure me out.
“Interesting,” I commented, familiar with his dilemma.
“Yeah, are you okay?” He questioned, at that moment my voice decided to get stuck on my throat, my mind still trying to figure out how of all days he had chosen to sit beside me and ask if I’m okay was when I had a mental, emotional breakdown and used him to escape not too long ago. What kind of voodoo telepathic shit was going on?
“I’m okay,” I finally answered, “are you okay?”
“I’m good,” and that was the end of our conversation since Professor McCormick rushed into the auditorium, greeting us whilst he set himself up.
“Sorry for being late, traffic in this city surprises me every day, still getting used to it,” he chuckled, eliciting a light laughter from the most of us.
“At least you are here now,” a student said.
“That’s right, at least I am here,” he heaved, starting up his laptop and putting up the PowerPoint for today.
“I like him,” I whispered to Ricardo, I looked over his face, his aura putting me in a trance, finding it hard to pull away.
“I like him too,” he repeated, laughing at his response, now the both of us are sharing a laugh.
“You gonna repeat everything I say?” I shot back the words he threw at me earlier.
“Yeah,” he deadpanned, his face feigned seriousness but his eyes deceived him as the dark orbs were twinkling with humour. There was ease and comfort in his presence, his eyes kind and yet guarded, most importantly, he made me feel safe and secure in his space despite the handful of times we had saw and spoken to each other. We worked together throughout the lesson, savouring the feel of being in his presence, the feelings of intensity flamed between us, becoming harder to contain every time our eyes met.
Hopeless laughter fallen from my lips when he became engrossed in his beliefs and conceptual ideas, his eyebrows quirked up whenever I disagreed with his perspective. The current topic was society, “you can’t change my belief on this society being man-made, I don’t believe in it,” I said.
“We need a society to moralise us, and guide us through this life. You know a switch? Why do you plug your phone in the switch? Because that’s the norm, that’s how you’re meant to be charging your phone and using electrical devices,” he returned with passion, answering his own questions, his eyes widening, his face playful, wearing a smirk on his face, Ricardo was convinced that he is right.
“Just because we do it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. We are conditioned to do things and this society is obsessed with values that doesn’t make any sense, that are limiting to our human bodies and minds. They have obsessions with identities and labels, just because they exist doesn’t mean it’s right, it can be restrictive and controlling. The whole system is used to control us, conditions us to a way of life that is unnatural whilst making us work to sustain an organisation that keeps us divided and disorganised. Divide and conquer is still a belief that they weaponise you know?” Using all of my competitive nature to win this heated discussion. “It’s okay to be wrong sometimes,” I muttered teasingly, observing his face and sneaking a smile.
“I’m gonna get you back.”
“I’ll be waiting,” I relished in this moment of simply talking, having a light-hearted debate. His eyes on my face made me feel giddy, there was something unfurling between us, it was too intense to hide or ignore. The growing feelings filled up my soul, wanting more of him. I know I am walking in a dangerous path that has too many uncertainties that will lead to me getting hurt, but at this moment as we are exchanging smiles and glances of eyes, the energised connection and our conversations became something more, it felt worth it, whatever was happening between us was real. I know it.
“Alright class, you can go. See you on Wednesday, stay safe and have a good day,” Professor McCormick shouted.
“I know you feel it,” I whispered as we walked out the class. Ricardo waited for me to go through the door he held open, his eyes were silently watching me, his hands holding the door wide open, “thank you,” I say at last. The foreign emotions heightened at his chivalry, I never had someone hold the door open for me.
“It doesn’t matter nothing can happen, too much is going on with my life. I’m not where I want to be in my life, please try to understand,” he said, his voice almost pleading.
“You don’t want me,” I murmured, the insecurities buried inside me slithering up.
“It’s not that easy, Kalina. Life isn’t always straight-forward, there are things I need to straighten out, I need to focus on my music, I want to make it in life. I’m not where I want to be, I can’t like you because I’m not ready for someone like you,” he slowly uttered, his voice asserting conviction as if he has been thinking about this for a long time. His hands disappeared inside his jean pockets, the beanie on his head framed his strong features, enchanting his jawline, nose, and mouth.
Not ready to take any of it in, I shake it off, “can we at least talk, nothing needs to happen but we can still talk right?” I asked, anticipating his answer. He didn’t say anything, he nodded his head, tearing his eyes away from me. I ignored the insecurities and devastating words from the past trying to inch up.
“What are you doing now?” He suddenly said.
“Would you want to get a bite?”
“Sure,” we strolled side by side, the silence was comfortable. Even with the chilled breeze the sun was shining in the sky, brightening the streets, the colour of the trees was rich green, beautifying the pathway. I admired the city’s natural elements of the rustling trees, the honking and skidding vehicles as they wait in the long strings of traffic. NYU students and New Yorkers talked amongst each other, some walked alone, some with groups of people, the smell of various cultural food wafted through the air. “Where are we going?” I asked, watching him to already find his eyes on me.
“You try tacos?” He asked.
“No, I haven’t, I haven’t had a chance to explore food and restaurants in London.”
“It’s a Mexican and Caribbean food place, one of the best spots for tacos in Manhattan,” he said, distracted by his side profile, taking a glimpse of his beauty and slants that endowed his face.
“Are you Jamaican?” I questioned, scared I may get it wrong but I’m sure that I’m right.
“I am, how did you know?”
“United Kingdom have predominant Jamaican population, I grew up around them,” I said, relieved that I was right.
“That’s cool, I am aware. Many of my family went to U.K, many of them live in Birmingham and London, the ancestry before us moved around 1950s, after World War Two. Britain brought vast amount of Caribbean folks, mainly Jamaicans to do work for them, to build their economy, they were part of the Windrush era. My parents chose to come here rather than going to the U.K.”
“Wow. I always wondered why my grandfather chose to settle there after working as a labourer in British ships during colonial Singapore,” the questions and thoughts kept nagging at me, wanting answers but finding none, simply trying to justify his reasons at the time. “I came up with the answer that Bangladesh was unliveable with famine, war and devastation and living in Britain was a safer option, especially more so because he was a British citizen since he was a labourer, working on the ships in Singapore, for the British empire.”
“I can see that, racial disparity and diaspora is always a challenging aspect of history and life to navigate and adding slavery, colonialism, and imperialism. The British empire is disgusting and it should be acknowledged. That’s why we can relate and connect with each other in some way despite our differences. Communities for our people are fundamental, essential part of life, community is a way of life,” he expressed.
“I can see that,” imitating his earlier words, both of us laughing at our constant repetitive responses. “Community is important, our people only had each other, we always have been for the people. Even when we are living in an individualistic society, in a space where we need to make something of ourselves, fighting for our dreams, we always come back to the people, paying them back and taking care of them. Community is our ancestry and, in our blood,” I muttered seriously. He simply nodded, his eyes regarding me with his twinkly, celestial eyes, feeling his stare on the seat of my stomach.
Waiter came to get our order, giggling as I realised, we hadn’t been looking down at the menu because of our conversations, wincing at my unusual behaviour. Ricardo said some food options to the waiter, taking the time to observe him, the urge to sink into his presence was onerous. “For Kalina, can I get the shrimp tacos with mango salsa and fried plantains, beef patties and fried dumplings please,” he listed, looking at me “you want a drink? What drink do you want?”
“I’ll have a coke please,” I requested towards the waiter, Ricardo repeated the drink order to the waiter and ending it with a thank you. Both of us shared a smile, falling back into our conversations, “what are your dreams, Ricardo?” I asked, wanting to know everything about him.
“I want people to listen to my music, being an artist, a musician is all I know, only thing I want to do. I want to buy a nicer home for my family, to leave my neighbourhood and give my little sister a life I didn’t have,” he responded solemnly, his eyes avoided me, his hands played with the napkins on the table.
“That’s a nice dream,” I simply said, hating the logical side of me, who understood why he didn’t want me. Nonetheless my heart tugged at my chest, the sensation not lessened it’s clenching on my heart at the thought of him not wanting me. He had a face of conflict when his eyes were on me.
“Not everyone is fortunate to be born rich and with money, most of us have to work for it and sometimes we don’t even get much.”
“My father lived in a two-bedroom house with his parents in Bangladesh, my mother married him, and he came to United Kingdom with nothing. My mother grew up in one house with three other families in Birmingham. She didn’t finish her education, she stopped after secondary school, she had my eldest brother after a year of marriage and all followed through, I’m the youngest in my family. Most of my siblings are spread out, my eldest brother still lives in London, he already has a life there, so he didn’t come with us, my second eldest brother is currently in Tokyo pursuing engineering, and my sisters are mostly working so basically, I’m like an only child. My father worked two jobs whilst getting his degree in business and economics, he went into real estate, tearing down redundant businesses and put them together and sold them at a higher price to companies to invest in. He worked for a company that are located in London, New York and Singapore, he had worked most of his life to get here so, I understand Ricardo. You’ll get there, you’ll achieve all things you want, okay?” I said confident in his ability, he blew me away the first time I saw him perform, he has enough passion and fire to get what he wants, throughout the conversation. A soft hum streamed tenderly to my heart, the acceptance of him not wanting me whirred, making peace with it.
I watched her with wonder and confusion, how did she accept it so easily? Waiting for her to switch up on me. But as I study her sweet, sweet face, I know her words were as real as her aura. I didn’t know why I had chosen to sit beside her in class, something heavy has been wearing my body down from the moment I had woken up, I couldn’t shake it and then I walked towards her as if it was meant to be. Not expecting the excitement, I would feel of sharing a space with her. Every conversation tugged me to her like a hypnotising bell ringing and the only direction to go from here was forward, towards her, I didn’t want her to leave. Maybe it was selfish of me to ask her to hang out with me when I didn’t want anything happening between us but, I couldn’t help it as if I had no control of my heart and mind.
Watching her honest eyes paired with a mouth filled with understanding and truth, I felt compelled to think about her and me in the future, the visions coming to life and rushing through me, driving the emotions I felt for her. Her smile on my face, viewed me with pride and adoration as she watched me on the stage, seeing her with my family, spoiling my little sister, having a loving relationship with my mother, her coming to the studios to see me, her eyes on me when I’m recording on the booth, the smile on my face getting bigger as I spot her with my friends. I imagined her and I alone in our own home, she was wearing my clothes, laying back in our bed and laughing, her ear on my heart as I sing to her. Living life with her, creating life with her and until we’re grey and old. I could see it as I sit opposite her, her smile gentle on me, her eyes caressing my face and her chest going up and down evenly with her steady breath. What do I feel for you? I wondered to myself, imprinting her face on my mind, to my memory. The way her eyes see me, her mouth called out my name, her body relaxed and at ease around me, the way I feel being around her, “have you explored New York yet?” I asked her when we finished eating, paying for both of us which she protested against and gave me a stink face, opening up her own purse and pushing twenty-five dollars to my face, kept talking about paying me back and not accepting it. There will be a day where I can buy her all the things she wants, but now I could only afford to pay for her food when she’s with me, and that is exactly what I’m going to do.
“I’ve been to Chinatown, Greenwich Village, east Harlem, through the Brooklyn Bridge and Jackson Heights, Queens,” she said, our arms touching from time to time when we strolled down the sidewalk.
“Okay, I have an idea of where I am going to be taking you,” I said.
“Where are you taking me?” she returned.
“Don’t worry, you’ll find out when you see it but for now, it is a surprise,” satisfied with her pouted mouth, and scrunched up face, making me laugh as a result.
Her voice released a gasp, her eyes widened, her mouth shaped like an ‘o’, looking back at me in shock. “Ricardo,” she whispered, liking the way she said my name, the gentleness of her soft voice saying my name was addictive. “I heard of this place, they say you can see the whole of Manhattan at the top of the building, is that where we are going?” She squealed, enjoying her goofy and loopy excitement, it made her even more cute, finding it hard to grasp the overflowing emotions that are surfacing because of her.
“Yes,” I said, too distracted by her enthusiastic facial expressions, stepping into the building. I guided her to the elevator, tapping the button of the elevator, taking us to the floor that will show us the city view. “I would come here as often as I can, or I’ll sit on the Brooklyn Heights promenade, the views of the skyscrapers make me feel infinite, extraordinary as if I mattered, as if I am valued and needed in this world,” I lightly muttered, finding myself relaxing in her presence.
“I felt that way when me and my parents drove through the Brooklyn Bridge, the sight of Manhattan made me feel as if I’m bigger than life,” she murmured, waiting for the elevator to reach our floor. The ding indicated that we are here, waiting for her to go first, I followed after her, slowly observing and assessing her facial expressions and body.
“Oh my God,” she gasped, her breath coming out shorter, her body still as she watched the view, captivated by her form, finding it hard to keep my eyes off of her, her aura and being leaving me dazed, sweeping me closer to her. The sun was out, shining radiantly in the sky, overseeing the city but I watched her face, my heart clamped as the sun glistened graciously and delicately over her skin, her brown complexion festooning a golden hue, flattering her already natural beauty. I can’t have you now, I can’t do it, I don’t deserve it, Ricardo can’t want Kalina, I’m not worthy of her, and yet it didn’t stop me from stepping into her space. I returned her confused gaze with my heated one, reaching for her hand, feeling the soft skin of her fingers, curious if all of her felt this way. I caressed the arch of her pinkie finger, and then intertwined her fingers with mine, welding our fingers together and making us become one, her fingers fitted smoothly with mine. Her breath flittered over my face, taking in this moment, embracing her innate reaction to my proximity, of her fingers stroking mine, of her looking down at our joined fingers and looking back up, her mouth giving me her sweet, sweet smile.
I’m excited to see where this story goes. I hope you liked it if you read it and I hope to see you soon. Kind Regards, Konijja