“We have to find a way to make you less afraid of me.”
I didn’t know how to respond. We were standing in the kitchen making dinner. He handed me a plate as I lost my appetite. All I could think was that there must be something wrong with me.
I don’t have anything to say.
We took our plates to the living room and sat down on the couch. He asked me what I wanted to watch.
“I don’t care, whatever you want to watch.”
As long as there was something on the screen I wouldn’t have to think of something to say.
I kept thinking that someone else should be sitting in my place. Surely he knows he can do better.
I felt comfortable sitting on the couch, my legs stretched out over his lap. Yet, I was still on the edge of my seat. Waiting for him to change his mind. He looks over at me and winks.
I wink back and wonder why it’s so hard for me to realize that someone could look at me that way and mean it.
“Yusuf,” he said.
“What?” I asked.
The way he was looking at me told me something was happening. My heart could feel it.
“Yusuf...” he said. He reached for my hand.
“Islam? What does Cat Stevens have to do with anything?”
I waited for him to say the words, but he was still manifesting his feelings for Yusuf.
Why is it so hard for us to talk to each other?
He whispered the words in my ear. The words I was supposed to want to hear. Was it a promise?
Things changed quickly in the morning air. I woke up naked with my heart exposed. It was still warm from hours earlier when we looked at each other in a way we never would again.
A few days passed. The world stood still.
“About what I said the other night,” he said. “I shouldn’t be saying things like that right now.”
I was standing in his living room and couldn’t look him in the eyes.
“Then why did you?”
Why say anything at all?
We talked about the four-letter word and his complicated past. I told him that I understood, but it only made me more aware of my naïveté. He asked if I still wanted to stay over. I drove back to my apartment and waited for his goodnight text. But it didn’t feel the same.
A week later I was listening to Hank Williams and lying on the living room floor. I didn’t have to say anything because he already understood.