Then I see him there, around the corner. Maybe waiting for me; maybe for somebody else. I can't pass by him and pretend that I didn't see him; I try to walk quickly, in the hope of just saying “hi” and not stopping.
His voice is grave, with a intonation that leaves no doubt that he means what he says. I don't want to stop to talk to him. He'll ask me out again and I'm running out of nice excuses.
“Hi, David.” I don't stop. Just as I pass by him, a fraction of a second after I think I'm free, I hear his voice.
“Why are you afraid of me?”
I have to stop. I shouldn't stop. I realize that I have already stopped.
“What?” I look at him. He hasn't moved, leaning against the wall, his hands lost behind his back, and yet he seems stately and towers over my five feet. He does not flinch a muscle. That makes me uneasy, the way he is always serious when talking to me, even if flirting or joking, and gives me a feeling that he never says a word that he wouldn't die for.
“I'm not afraid of you.” I try to say that as merrily as possible, as if I were entertaining for the first time the idea, and it seemed laughable.
“Right, maybe afraid is not quite the word. Uneasy, then.”
That is the other reason. How he seems to read my mind. The way he guesses things about me that he couldn't possibly know. Like that morning when I quoted a well known verse in the conversation, the first time he did his spooky act. He grinned his mysterious grin, which gives a glimpse that something is in his mind, but not of what it is.
“Do you like Shakespeare?” he asked.
“Yes. Don't you?”
Then he hit the blow.
“I'd prefer to hear the poetries you write to his, anytime.”
It was the first time he took my breath away. I felt like I was punched, and yet he just stood there with his smile, looking straight into my eyes. Nobody has ever read my poems. Nobody knows I write poems.
“Do you write poetry?” I asked, trying to move the focus away from me. He widened his grin.
“I pretend to,” he said. Then he asked me out in his slippery way. His questions are always slippery, sometimes disguised as affirmations which would require a straight lie, as in the case of the poetry, or can't be given a direct no, as when he asks me out. I said I was busy.
“Or uneasy,” I answer now to his latest non-question. He tilts his head, doing something with his eyes that says clearly “please, don't waste our time.” I lower my eyes, look around, trying to find an excuse to go away.
“When I talk to you, you break eye contact, you look around, you hesitate seconds before answering, you twist your hands.” Again the blow; I'm suddenly self-conscious of my hands sweaty and fisted. “Have you heard that many bad things about me?”
I glance at him. He's still grinning, as if this situation amuses him. I'm praying for someone we know to show up.
“No. I'm really not-”
“Come on, Viv. Look, I'm not in a good phase of my life. I know you haven't got a thing with it, but in other situations I'd be more charming in this game. But I don't get why you are so uneasy.”
“Look, David... It's not-”
“Wait before you say anything. You don't know me.” He has to stop that. He opens a bag lying on the floor, and takes something off it. “Open it.” It's an envelope. I look at him with distrust, and open my mouth. “Just open it,” he says. I do. Another blow. It's a drawing of me, in pastel. The heavy, thick paper is of a light and pale blue, and the likeness to my figure is haunting. I probably contemplate it for a long time, until I finally notice the small D at the bottom of the page.
“Did you draw it?”
He nods. He can draw. Who'd have known. He offers me a mint, taking one himself first, but I refuse both the mint and the drawing.
“I can't accept it.”
“Look, David... You are-”
“What I find amazing,” he says, interrupting me for the umpteenth time, “is that you don't have a clue of why I like you.” He should stop that. Drawing to mint to why he likes me. He likes to confuse me. I hate that.
“Because you are intelligent, really intelligent, in that sparkling way that is so rare. The way you talk, the delicate tone of your voice, how you say things trying to hide what you really mean, and nobody notices. Your remarkable dark green eyes, which make me forget that you are as pretty as you are, with this lock of hair that keeps falling on your face and that you push behind your ear with such a delicate movement of your hands. The way you walk and move, how many years have you studied ballet?”
“Six,” I almost whisper. I'm not pretty. I don't talk like that, do I? How does he know I was a dancer?
“Six. You must have been good, why did you quit? The rigid discipline?”
“I hated the life of a dancer.” And I was too fat. I am too fat. How can he not think so?
“I'd like to draw you dancing. I'd like to dance with you. You have the body of a dancer, lean, beautiful, always moving in a way to draw delicate, invisible arabesques on the thin air. I'd like to take you away and show you the David you haven't seen, because it is my fault that I've been such a stranger to you.” I feel something behind me. It's the wall. He has been coming closer and closer, and I moved back until he has pressed me against the wall. He is very near now. “I'd like to be with you everyday, to feel the way I feel when you are around. You intoxicate me. You make me dizzy. I dreamt about you last week.” If he moves just the width of a hair, his body will be touching mine. He reaches for my face, and his touch is light but thrills me with a sharp electric shock, and I feel a shiver running all over my body. I close my eyes, but I only notice I did it because I feel his kiss. “One of those wacky dreams. But you were in it, and I felt happy as hell.” I feel his kiss again and its warmth spreading under my skin.
I open my eyes. He is smirking. “You don't know anything about me,” I blurt out, running away and feeling like I'm thirteen again.