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The maturest man I have ever been with was 35 years old. 35 is not really that old...but when you think about the fact that at 35, he was more than a decade older than I was...then yes...it is old.
The year was 2009. It could have been July or it could have been August....either way it was winter. I remember this distinctly as it was a rather cold winter that year. I remember stepping into the foyer of the bookstore and being thankful of the warmth it provided me. It was not just the heating in the store but more than anything, the warmth and the joy that I get just from looking at books. In no time had I managed to lose myself in the sea of books until an accented voice interrupted me in my hunt for the “perfect” book.
“Do you like crime fiction?
“Why do you ask that?
“You been thumbing that new Patterson trite for over 10 minutes, I was merely being curious...
“And I supposed you have fantastic taste in books?
“Superb. I could tell you all about them over coffee.”
He smiled cheekily.
Dark hair, brown eyes, tanned skin, and clever. Certainly clever, he's got that look to him. And judging by the accent...somewhere from the Latin region of the world.
“Smooth. Very smooth.
“I've been told that. I'm Rodrigo....and you are...bonita.
“That's not my name.
“But it certainly suits you.”
He was working me top to bottom. I knew this even then and the thing was, I was charmed. Very charmed. So charmed that I agreed to that coffee.
“You're not from this parts, are you?
“Oh no, I'm from Spain originally but I'm here for life now.
“What do you do?
“I'm a scientist.
“Scientist? That's a strange coincidence cause so am I. Rocket scientist.
“Haha...no, no bonita, I am for real. I did Marine Science for my Bachelors, Biomedical for my Masters and then the government of this country offered me a full scholarship for PhD in Genetics if I agree to work for them later on. R and D. So yes, I am a scientist.
“I never met a scientist before...
“Now you have...How would you like to date one now too?”
The conversation went on. The chemistry was electric. We laughed and we talked and he wooed me the entire afternoon. When it finally came to an end, he reached over the table, squeezed my hand and asked if he could see me again. Tomorrow, perhaps? My heart skipped a beat. In fact, if I was honest it skipped a thousand beats and it was a miracle that I am still alive now. I knew then what I know now for all certainty, that I was in trouble. Historically speaking, whenever I follow my heart anywhere it gets me into trouble and this was no different.
We met up the next couple of days, we talked and we laughed. We stared into each other’s eyes and overtime we were holding each other's hands while crossing the street. We were holding hands even when we were sitting at the cafe. We were holding hands everywhere and anywhere. He took me to jazz clubs and ballets. We visited museum exhibitions and pretended to be more cultured than we actually are. He introduced me to his scientists friends as an equal, not as a university student completely clueless on where her life is going. I was...smitten. It was an exciting time, to be with a sophisticated older man who treated me with respect and care and overtime I feel like this could be more. Much more. But the L word has never crossed his lips and if I was being completely honest with myself, amidst all the glamour and fun we were having, he was holding back something from me.
I wanted to ask. I wanted to know. But I didn't want to pry. I told myself if he wanted to, he would have told me. I said this to myself as I stared at my reflection in the mirror. Consoling myself the only way I know how; by denial and more denial and half-concocted mistruths. “Everything is going so well, don't ruin this. Don't ruin this,” I told the increasingly apprehensive reflection in the mirror. “He cares about you, and that's enough” I said to the reflection, willing her to be satiated. But she wasn't.
And neither was I.
It was raining that day as he dropped me off at my place. He couldn't come in as he had somewhere else to go to. I smiled and what I wanted to say was....I couldn't remember what I wanted to say. But what I did say was “Why are you holding back from me?” It blurted out of nowhere. I did not plan it. All those time pleading to myself in the mirror did nothing, nothing at all.
The silence hung between us like an icicle waiting to fall and shatter into a million tiny pieces.
I didn't even have to explain what I meant because I knew that he knew what I meant. Rain was falling even harder outside. Dean Martin was crooning “Bye Bye Baby” softly out of the stereo. As if foreshadowing what's to come.
“Her name's Margaret.
“We were together for 5 years.
“She left me about 4 months before I met you.
“I asked her to marry me....but she wasn't ready. We fought a lot because of that. Then she left.
The icicle has fallen. And every and each of the tiny pieces managed to find its way into my heart.
“So I am.....your intermission?” Couldn't bring myself to say rebound, when clearly it was the more apt choice of word.
“It's not like that. I do care about you...it's just that....
“Not nearly enough,” I finished the sentence for him.
It was his turn to be silent. I stared out of the window. Trees were swaying in the wind. The rain was not letting up. Somewhere in a distance, a cat hurriedly crossed the street. Things seemed to be going on as per normal outside when everything, entirely everything has changed in my world.
“I should get in, it's getting late” I said as I opened the door. I wanted to get away. Just get away.
He grabbed my hand as I was stepping out. Just like that very first time.
“I didn't want it to be like this. I don't want it to end like this.
“But it just did.”
And with that I walked into the rain and to my place. He didn't come after me. My roommate was watching the telly in the living room when I came in.
“Hey, your mascara's running down your face” she said as she stuffed her face with pie.
“Well, hell of a rain outside.”
My mascara wasn't runny for the rain alone.
After that he called and we talked. We talked for a really long time....and I decided to end it. I knew that it hurt me more than it hurt him but I deserve better than to be the intermission. I am a head-liner and if I am not than there's really no point. I deserve better. This, I know.
This was of course 2 years ago. I've moved on since then. I thought so anyway.
Today I went to the bookstore where we met in 2 years ago. They were having a fire-sale. I used to avoid the store like a plague right after it happened, but not anymore. I was thumbing through a Sheldon book this time when
“Still reading trite I see” he said in that easy way of his, appearing next to me out of nowhere.
“Fancy bumping into you here” I said.
“Not really, cheap books!”
We smiled at each other when I noticed there was a woman watching us.
“Who's that? New girlfriend?
“Old actually.....that's Margaret.
“We kinda got back together.
“I could see that....ah well I should get going now.
“Wait, I want to tell you something......Margaret and I, we're getting married next month. I thought you should know.”
There's that icicle again, making an unwanted reappearance.
“Oh, congrats then. I'm happy for you. I kinda need to go now but congrats!”
I gave him a smile and exited the store as gracefully as possible. Leaving the pile of books I have carefully selected for the last hour behind me. It's been 2 years but my heart was still beating in my throat and my eyes were getting blurry. I could feel his eyes on me as I walked out. Drinking every inch of me for what could possibly be the very last time.
I would have turn back for one last look too but then....this time around there was no rain to mask the mascara streaking down my face.