“Girls love it when a guy takes them by surprise”
She was trying to pass it off as small talk. She was looking at him, almost gazing. She is looking for something, anything. A reaction to her provocation. She is seated across from him. It has been a quiet trip, for the most part. The train has just left its second last stop. She knew that they only had 45 minutes until they got to Mombasa. In her head, she had planned out the three days in Mombasa.
The three days were her chance to find out if he really had feelings for her. She knew he had feelings and she suspected they were the kind she would prefer. She just wasn’t sure. It had just been three hours since they left Nairobi, but to her, him not giving any advances, the last four hours felt like an eternity.
She tried to keep a constant gaze as at this time she felt that any change could affect her experiment. She wanted him to react to what she had just said.
So she looked on, searched his eyes. He must trim his beard every day. It seems perfect. Every day. Not a hair out of place. She snapped back but trying to act composed. It was playful; at least she hoped it was. She wondered how much longer she could keep it. Her thoughts kept drifting, and he kept a straight face. Her left eye flinched, this time because she was getting a bit anxious, wondering why he just sat there and looked at her. This reminded her of the time she sent a racy text to Raymond while they were in campus. She could not take it back and the 8 hours she had to wait until his reply were a total mess. She could not unsend it. She had cursed her phone for sending her a low battery notification on a day where every beep set her off. This was all Samantha’s fault. She had typed out the text, and Samantha had pushed her to send it. That was the longest wait of her life. “Until now…” she thought.
Again, she had done something out of her character, and she was paying for it. This time, Samantha didn’t push her to send it. This time she decided to. She wanted to know if Brian’s witty, yet flirtatious comments in the office were a sign of what he felt. What did he feel? It was feeling like an eternity. This time it even felt longer than the eight hours. That might be because he was seated right opposite her. Quiet. She wanted to take it back but just like the SMS five years ago, she couldn’t. Maybe she should say something to diffuse the situation. Her mind was on overdrive as she looked for a simple phrase to disarm the situation. It felt longer than the eight hours, but in reality, it had only been 15 seconds.
He moved as if to say something. She held her breath. His intense look broke into a subtle smile. The edges of his lips moved, ever so slightly. She was taking it all in, all this data that she could not compute. “What’s he about to say?”
He pushed air out of his nose, almost like a quiet sigh, but with his mouth closed.
He opened his mouth to talk, with it taking in a rapid breath in through his mouth. And then froze. She noticed he had also raised his hand with his index finger raised like he was about to make a point.
He put his hand down and closed his mouth, pushing warm air out of his nostrils. With pursed lips he turned to the window in contemplation then his face relaxed.
“I blew it!” She thought.
“By Surprise?” he asked, almost contemplatively. “Explain…” He continued, this time looking at her, waiting for an explanation. She snapped back, he took the bait. Just like five years ago with Raymond, he was willing to indulge her after a moment of tension. Although she hoped it would not turn out quite as tragically. Actually, Raymond’s response to the SMS had nothing to do with how their relationship ended six months later. But it did not end well, and she cursed herself for letting Samantha talking her into sending the text that started a chain of events that had led her to discover pleasure and pain in measures she had not imagined possible before.
She composed herself. “Romance is a story, and you never know the next scene unless you take the chance and flip the page.” Lines formed on his forehead mimicking a frown but he let out a chuckle.
“Have you been reading romantic novels during your lunch break again?” he said as he let out another chuckle.
The book, it was just that one time in her first week in the office. It was not even her book. Her sister had left it in her house when she had gone visiting over the weekend. Given that the first week at work was slow and her computer had not arrived, she had carried the book to the office to keep herself busy as the days, she had discovered, could get incredibly boring when everyone is so caught up in their work.
Her response, however, had nothing to do with “Petals in the Wind” by David Shieldman. It was what she had hoped was a smooth transition into a conversation following a brief but very intense moment.
“No, don’t bring up the book…” she started “it was only that one time, can we now let it go?” He was not going to.
“What I meant is women like a bit of spontaneity; being caught utterly by surprise with something pleasant like a stolen kiss.”
“A stolen kiss?” he asked.
She went on to explain. “Asking a woman if you can kiss her is a total turn off. Even if she says yes, it will mostly just be to avoid awkwardness after that, especially if she likes the guy.” She paused as if to wait for a comment. He did not comment. “If you want to kiss a girl, don’t ask, grab her and kiss her.”
He took a moment to weigh the statement.
“I am not saying that romance can be summarised in the brief spontaneity of a stolen kiss, but that is definitely a defining statement. It is the little things.”
He was now slightly biting the inner part of his lower lip and pushing out his lower jaw to form what looked like a subtle smile.
“See, I have a problem with that. On the surface, you are suggesting that men just go in and grab and kiss women that they are romantically interested in.”
She came back almost immediately. “No, not every woman that you like. You need to read the signs. You need to know that she feels the same way too. “She trailed off recognising how ridiculous that sounded. Especially in light of previous heated discussions in the office where the men argued it is almost impossible to know when a woman liked them.
“You can just know the right time to grab a woman, you will feel it.” She knew that was a weak statement, but she said it anyway.
“I have an alternative theory,” he said, “on romance, that is, and especially in response to your argument with the stolen kiss.”
He sat up from the seat’s backrest and then slowly placed his elbows in a slouch as if to explain something critical where he needed to make it abundantly clear that he wanted her full attention.
“I especially have a problem with the word stolen when it comes to romance. See romance to me, is not about shocking the person into feeling. Stealing implies a lack of participation; it creates a perpetrator and a victim. I think romance should be participatory. It is not about surprised but about choice.” He paused for dramatic effect.
“For it to be more than an intoxicating moment of pleasure whose effects you have to weigh later, the kiss should be a moment of sobriety.”
She was curious now. “Continue…”
He continued. “You want to look at her in a way so deep and full of intent that it is not just a look but a statement, a gaze so intent that you can feel it. At the moment before the kiss you want her to be alive to it, aware of the smooth, gradual advance. You want her to consider her feelings. It is at that moment where she becomes aware of her heartbeat. She can feel the gentle rhythmic thud in her chest which with every second that he draws nearer it gets louder. She will then consider his distance and how slowly but swiftly he has gotten into her space, crowding her aura. At that moment she will pause to wonder is she is claustrophobic. Her breathing will intensify, and then there is a sharp sense of panic that dissipates almost as suddenly as it had come on. There is a loud tick-tock sound as she considers how much longer this will go on. Then it is calm. Almost quiet, when nothing else matters, her breath is almost back to normal, and her heartbeat disappears slowly into the background. Now she can smell him, feel his warmth, and time has slowed or seized to exist. The concern about space slowly fades, and she is now surer than ever that she is ok with everything that is happening. Just as she is about to relax and wait for him to kiss her, his slow advance stops and almost like on cue, she leans forward to kiss him.”
He is done explaining, she is still at the moment taking in his explanation of a romantic kiss.
He slumps back into his seat, feeling accomplished.
This was nothing like she expected from him. The trip to Mombasa was definitely going to be one to remember. She, however, intends to stay away from him. She needed to focus. It is not every day the new kid in the office gets to organise and run a two-day conference. She was going to bury her head into work. She felt glad that he would be all too busy with the delegates the whole time. But that was when they arrived, until then she had to know what to say and do for the remaining 30 minutes of the ride.
“I have to use the little girl’s room.”