It was Friday night and a bunch of us were at my sister, Rowena’s flat, celebrating her thirtieth birthday. I was standing on the balcony, gazing at the Hudson River when Johaan joined me. He leaned against the rail and stared at me. My heart began to beat faster and I was unnerved.
Finally, I asked, “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Why do you wear so much makeup?” He asked.
“You think it’s too much?”
“Yes. You don’t need to wear makeup. You’re a beautiful woman.”
My mouth dropped open. He said I was beautiful.
“Let’s go for a walk,” he suggested. “I want to be alone with you.”
I couldn’t believe it. He wanted to be alone with me. I pinched my arm to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming. “Sure,” I said. “I’ll just grab my jacket.” It was beginning to feel a bit cool now, typical of early Fall.
Five minutes later, we were strolling through Central Park. It was a pleasant evening. The sun hadn’t set as yet.
“Romina, are you dating anyone?” he asked after a while.
“No. What about you?”
“No. And even if I were, I would drop her for you.”
I glanced at him, my face feeling hot. “You would?”
“Yes, in a heartbeat if I knew that you would be interested in being in a relationship with me. Would you?”
“Would I be interested in being in a relationship with you?”
“Yes, I would be.”
He smiled and reached for my hand. “Good.”
It felt strange and good holding hands with him. “If you’re not doing anything tomorrow evening, would you like to come over for dinner at my place?”
“Sure, I’d love to.”
“I think I will stop by POP on the weekend and get a few of their Gluten-Free, Vegan Cranberry-Almond Tartlets. Yesterday, a co-worker brought a few of those to work and I tried one. It was absolutely amazing.”
“Pinch of Purpose. It’s Vegan baking company. That’s where I got the Blood Orange Chocolate Birthday Cake for Rowena. She’s completely Vegan now.”
“I used to date a woman who was Vegan. Are you thinking of becoming one too?”
“No way! I love my Jerk Chicken, Oxtail and Ackee and Salt-fish too much to give them up. What about you?”
“No. Although I stopped eating red meat years ago. And I don’t eat fried or barbecued food anymore. I also cut out white bread, white flour, white sugar, sweeteners, caffeine, soda, juice and junk food. I drink only water and Almond or Cashew milk.”
“Sounds like you’re on a healthy diet and you look like you’re working out a lot too.”
“Yes, I try to keep fit as well as eat well.”
“I get my exercise from house-cleaning, long walks and Rollerblading.”
“Now that I know that you Rollerblade, how about we do that together?”
“I’d like that.”
We walked for a while longer and then we returned to Rowena’s building but instead of going up to her apartment, we sat downstairs because it was still bright out and we wanted to enjoy the fresh air and more of each other’s company.
As he sat there, staring at me, I couldn’t resist. I took out my phone. “I’d like to take your picture,” I told him. “Do you mind?”
He shook his head, smiling. “No, I don’t mind at all.”
I took a few. After I put my phone away, I sat beside him. He held my hand again. We sat there for a while, holding hands, talking and laughing. When we went back up stairs, we headed straight for the balcony because we wanted to watch the sun set. We stood there, leaning against the rail, watching as the fiery red ball slowly descended over the Hudson.
Then, he moved from beside me to behind me. I felt his hands on my shoulders, turning me around so that I was facing him. I stared up into his face which was crimson. Our eyes held for several minutes before he lowered his head and kissed me.
All sorts of sensations exploded in me. I had always wondered what it would be like to be kissed by him and now here we were, kissing. It felt surreal. I put my arms around his waist and kissed him back. It was an amazing experience which I didn’t want to end. When it did, it was because he had raised his head to inform me softly, “I have wanted to do that for a long, long time.”
“I’m happy you finally did it,” I replied breathlessly before I reached up and pulled his head down.
That was one of many unforgettable evenings with Johaan.