My ex-girlfriend once said, out of the blue, when we were still an album, that I kissed like her ex-boyfriend. Needless to say, I was puzzled. And curious, so I asked what she meant.
‘It’s the way you switch things up. Like when you say no hands while kissing, and first person to touch the other will pay for dinner or cook. You always win, and I wonder if your mind is elsewhere so that you’re not thinking of touching me’.
I had laughed. But she wasn’t done. ‘Or when you wake up and kiss me before we brush. And I’m horrified, but you say it doesn’t taste as bad as you thought, and you kiss me again’.
‘Darling, my mind and heart are with you, on you, when my mouth is slow dancing with yours’.
She had scoffed at ‘slow dancing’.
I scoffed back and replied in a snooty British accent. ‘Look at this unbeliever. Kissing can be a slow dance, a foxtrot or a break dance; it’s a matter of skill, speed and technique, of course’.
Our album flopped two years ago, just before she travelled to Canada for her Masters degree. She couldn’t handle a long distance relationship, she said, and wasn’t interested in trying. I wasn’t a fan of LDRs either, but I was willing to try. She couldn’t be persuaded, so instead of going platinum, our album had flopped. But we remained friends.
Now she was lying on her back on the floor of my sitting room, feet in my lap, nose buried in a book. I rubbed her feet with one hand and worked on my laptop with the other.
‘Are you hungry’? Her voice startled me out of work.
I looked over at her. She had dropped the book on her stomach and linked her fingers beneath her head. Her top stretched across her small breasts and shifted upwards to reveal her belly button. I poked it and replied, ‘Yeah’.
‘Me, too. Cook or buy’?
‘You or me’?
I paused for a moment. ‘We’ll kiss for it’.
She frowned at me even though her eyes brightened in surprise and recollection.
I grinned. ‘No hands’.
I won, hands down. Pun unintended.
She boiled Irish potatoes and fried eggs. She liked to clean up as she cooked so by the time she turned off the fire under the frying pan, the kitchen was back to its pre-cooking mode.
I strolled into the kitchen with her favourite brand of juice and put it in the freezer. She was swaying in time to Dolly Parton’s ‘Coat of Many Colours’ as she laid out two plates to dish the food.
I opened a bottle of water and leaned against the fridge to drink it, while I watched her. ‘You like cooking, but only when and what you like’. She whirled around in surprise, spatula raised; she hadn’t heard me return. ‘And you cook pretty well for someone who grew up with a maid’.
Her laugh was quick. ‘Dad made sure we learned, even with the maid around. Left to my mom, we wouldn’t have, but dad insisted cooking was a basic survival skill and we had to learn. So, he would give the maid the weekends off and teach us.
‘He said he wanted us to have a choice when it came to food: cook or buy, instead of being stuck with only buying if there was no one to cook for us’.
‘I didn’t know your dad cooked or that he was the one who taught you’.
She threw the spatula up and caught it again. ‘He was. From childhood till now, whenever it’s anyone’s birthday, he’ll either take the person out to eat or cook. Cool stuff o, not the usual’.
‘Wow. That’s super cool’.
‘Yeah. He liked you, you know. Still asks of you’. When I didn’t reply, only stared at her, she turned to the counter to finish dishing the food.
I rinsed two glasses, placed them on trays with bottles of water and waited for her to put a plate on each tray. Then we picked a tray each and moved to the sitting room.
‘Thank You, Father, for this food in Jesus name’, she prayed.
We ate in silence for a few minutes. Then I picked her phone, scrolled through her music library and selected Simi’s version of the Coke anthem. After it, I played Beyoncé’s ‘Hello’.
We had finished eating by the time ‘Mad over You’ by Runtown got to the second verse. I stacked our plates and trays, leaving the glasses on the stool. We had eaten with our hands, so she followed me to the kitchen where we washed them. I stopped her before she could do the dishes. ‘I’ll wash them later’.
In the living room, I poured water in her glass, then in mine. We both had the habit of not drinking water till we were done eating. ‘Thanks for the meal’, I said, clinking my glass to hers. She smiled at me and drank deeply. ‘Do you want juice’?
‘Yes, please’. I raised my brow at her polite response. Saying nothing, I got up, carried the bottles of water to the kitchen and returned with the pack of juice. Her eyes lit up when she saw the name on it. I laughed and twisted the cover open before collecting her glass. ‘Dem go take this juice carry you go one day‘, I said as I filled her glass, then mine.
I bent to move my laptop closer to the extension box to avoid stepping on it. Simi was singing about wanting to be the one someone would die for when I was about to sit down. I remained standing and extended my hand to her. ‘Dance with me’. She locked eyes with me for two heartbeats before dropping her glass and taking my hand.
She wrapped her arms around my neck; mine went around her waist. We swayed and turned gently as Simi gave way to Ed Sheeran. I joined him to sing, ‘Darling, you look perfect tonight’.
I kissed the top of her head and laid my jaw on the spot. ‘I liked your dad, too; he still remembers my birthday, you know’.
‘Sounds like him’, she replied softly.
I made her spin twice. It made her laugh. I pulled her back into my arms. Now Mr Sheeran’s song said loving could hurt sometimes, but it was the only thing he knew.
‘I was going to…’ I swallowed hard. ‘Last night, when you said you were coming over, I planned to ask you to let us try again, now that you’re near’. She looked up at me, surprise widening her brown, slanted eyes. ‘But before I went to bed, I got an email from a film school in Paris that I applied to last month. They offered me my preferred course and…a scholarship. I’m to resume in two months. I was still going to ask you, baby, before I remembered why we broke up’.
She tried to pull away from me; I didn’t relax my hold. Her eyes filled quickly. I couldn’t bear to look in her eyes, bright with tears, so I gently pushed her face into my shoulder. Her body shook with quiet sobs. So my instinct had been right: we still felt the same way about each other. I should probably have only said I’d be going to Paris.
‘Now you’re the one leaving’? Even though she whispered, her voice was heavy. I pushed my fingers through her braids to massage her scalp in short strokes. Her nails dug into my back, reminiscent of when she had lost the kissing wager earlier.
I tipped her head backwards slightly and mopped up the tears on her cheeks with my mouth before fusing it to hers, in a bid to offer and receive comfort. She made sure there was nothing gentle about the kiss. Her fingers dug even harder into my back, like she sought to weld me to her to prevent me from leaving. And her mouth… It led mine, then followed; rumba, then foxtrot; salsa, then break dance.
I wrapped it up with a ballet, and slowly but firmly disengaged. She held on for a few breaths longer, ran her hands up my back, down my sides, up my chest to my neck and face, then she released me and stepped back. She looked at me like she wanted to say something but thought better of it and turned around.
I didn’t know what else to say or do. I asked if she was okay. ‘No. Not right now, I’m not. But I will be. Give me a few days. I’ll be in touch’. I watched her pick up her things. When she was done, I gathered and covered her with myself like a collapsed tent. She pressed a kiss to my neck; I pasted one on her temple, then she turned and walked, away from what could have been. Again.
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