It was so strange, seeing him like this. He hadn't been much of a talker before, but I guess loneliness changes people. He offered me a seat on the couch, and I accepted while he opened up a huge case of DVDs. He sat close to me (I managed to not hyperventilate,) and we sifted through them for awhile. I liked comedies, he didn't. He liked foreign films, I was picky about them. We finally agreed we both liked action movies and settled on The Matrix. This movie always made me feel better- who knows, maybe Keanu Reeves was on his sexy way to save us, or at least explain what happened.
At this point my feelings were indescribable. Here was another human being, and not just any person, but one I knew. One I had even cried over a dozen times in the past. I remembered my last break down over him five years ago- I allowed myself a final cry before I forced myself to move on, making a profile on a dating website, whittling my body to perfection as I used exercise to distract myself from him, my lukewarm happiness upon connecting with a pilot who had moved here from Thailand.
And now here I was, curled up on his couch in his home, under a blanket he brought me with no prompting and sipping a glass of tea he had made to hold me over while he cooked us dinner.
Never in my wildest dreams had I expected to be in a situation like this. And I certainly hadn't expected him to be so thoughtful. I had been taught my whole life that men were thoughtless creatures acting on a more primal level, no sense talking to them or expecting them to be house trained, much less polite and conscientious (somewhat contradictory, I'd also been taught to follow these primal non-thinkers without question- my raising was a bit questionable [good thing I was a natural rebel.])
I stared blankly at the screen, my mind replaying every embarrassing thing I'd done in the few short hours since we'd met in the parking lot. Of all times to be discovered, it had to be during my 'talent show.' His timing was terrible, but at least we hadn't come across each other on Naked Tuesday (my errand day, when I went around defying society's expectations...er, non-existent society's assumed expectations. Basically, it's just something to do, run around in the nude.) I didn't want to scare him.
My mind finally turned to other thoughts- how beautiful I'd always found his brown upturned almond shaped eyes (and before him, I didn't really care for brown eyes,) the curve of his lips. He'd definitely changed from boy to man since I'd last seen him. He kept his dark brown hair short, and his face sported a magazine perfect 5 o'clock shadow. He was still the 6 foot lanky guy I'd known, but now he seemed more solid. His muscles had filled out, and he didn't look so awkwardly scrawny anymore. When we hugged earlier, I'd definitely spent a moment appreciating the change in his anatomy (who'd have thought it was possible to be more attracted to him?)
Smells began to drift in from the kitchen and I turned to see him bringing in a large tray covered in dishes. He set it on the coffee table and I slid down the couch, sitting beside him on my knees, about to dive enthusiastically into what looked to be a traditional Korean dinner.
"I wasn't sure if you wanted to eat at the table or in here, but I thought it might be more comfortable with the movie on," he mumbled, sounding more like his old self.
"I can't believe you made all this." Ignoring his re-emerging discomfort, I picked up a pair of chopsticks and a spoon for my rice.
"Well, a lot of it I had cooked ahead and just pulled from the freezer." He offered me a side of kimchi.
I looked him straight in the eye and swallowed. Kimchi was one of the few things I just couldn't bring myself to enjoy, but I really, really didn't want to offend him. Even though this dish at least probably came from a jar, he still put a lot of effort and thought into this meal. I took a small pinch and set it on top of a spoonful of rice, hoping to dilute the taste with the bland grains.
Unfortunately, I'm a terrible liar.
"Mm, so good!" I fixed an unconvincing smile to my face as I tried not to gag.
He laughed out right and handed me a glass of ice water. "Just eat the stuff you like, Genevieve, I'm not going to be offended!"
"I'm sorry," I said, relieved. "I will happily eat anything but that."
With this short exchange, the slow creep of ice that had seemed to begin forming broke, and we spent the rest of the meal talking about different foods we liked and hated. It seemed neither of us was too picky. We both agreed on the horror of junk food, but found that he liked celery and onions just fine while I abhorred them, and he hated pork, my favorite meat. I learned that he had chickens, which was why the eggy sides were so good (or how we even had them,) and that he spoke four languages now, which was one more than me. He was always one up on me in everything; he even cooked better.
What a butt (literally and figuratively.)
When we finished eating, I insisted on helping clean up, then we went back in the living room and sorted through the DVDs again, finally agreeing on a Jackie Chan flick. We started out on opposite ends of the sofa, a most depressing arrangement. After six months of zero human interaction, I was starved for conversation and contact. Even just a coincidental brushing of arm against arm due to close proximity would've made me happy, but I guess I had to make do with just being in the same room.
After about thirty minutes of broken English and cheesy jokes, he finally found an excuse to get closer. He wanted to show me pictures he'd taken on his phone while he'd been out of the country. He scooted over, and we leaned in together as he showed me picturesque landscapes, old friends, his place of employment, his students. He tried to keep it light, just giving the barest of acknowledgements to any picture sporting a familiar face, and when he'd shown me all of them, he didn't move back.
It was starting to get pretty late, so after the movie ended, I stood and stretched. "Thank you so much for all your kindness and understanding today. I really hope we can hang out more." I held my hand out to shake. He looked at it funny for a moment and then laughed.
"You know, you don't have to go. I mean, I don't want to make you uncomfortable, but I think it's a good idea for us to stick together. I keep the master bedroom upstairs clean and ready for the unlikely guest. You'd have your own bathroom, privacy; you could stay as long as you want."
I was so ridiculously thrilled at this, I stood there in stunned silence for a moment.
He frowned, assuming I was thinking of a way to politely decline. "Don't feel pressured, I just wanted you to know being roommates is an option, in case you get tired of being in your apartment alone."
I smiled at him and tried to speak like a sane and rational person (instead of an over excited puppy who pees on everything.) "I think that's a great idea, but you have a dog and I have a cat."
"Wolf is probably more accurate, but I think if you keep your cat in your room for a bit, we can get them used to each other. Kai is very obedient and won't harm her, that I know," he assured me.
I didn't want to believe it, but he seemed almost eager. I was very nearly convinced he actually liked me for a moment, but then I reminded myself I'd put him on a pedestal a mile high, and that it was a very remote possibility that someone who's personality was mostly the product of delusions would actually have feelings for someone who was so in awe she constantly embarrassed herself in front of him due to innate awkwardness. Seriously. His face basically crippled my brain. One second of eye contact and my IQ took a steep dive from 150 to 60. Speech no good, brain bad, arms clumsy, jokes lame. Tarzan love Jane style.
"That sounds like a great idea," I said. Simple agreeable sentences limited the possibility of making a spectacle of myself (throwing an adjective in there was a risk I was willing to take this time.)
We went outside and hopped in his Hundai, listening to a j-pop song by a shrill female singer during the short ride. He ran upstairs with me and I set about tossing a few essentials in a bag while he grabbed a new clean spare litter-box, carton of litter, and case of cat food and carried them down to put in the trunk. I caught Mav and carried her down with my overnight bag and kept her in my lap for the short trip so she wouldn't freak out and run around the car. This was the most exciting day of my life.