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raspberries are red

It wasn’t a perfect day for weather — but it was a perfect day for Berlin.

 

Although, the rain did prove to threaten my plans for the day, you still wanted to meet.

 

I waited for you outside of our apartment building. Warschauer Strasse. One of the main hubs of Berlin, always bustling with busy bodies and enthusiastic drug induced tourists. The energy of the day was especially electric due to the kultural festival — an entire weekend filled with foods from all over the world and multiple music stages displaying local bands galore. I had been the previous night with friends, and ended up eating my life worth in Argentinian empanadas and pad thai.

 

My friends told me not to take you there, at least not to start off with. It was too loud for a first date — too chaotic. But I disagreed, I liked the noise, I liked the colors, the distractions from awkward conversation.

 

However, I took their advice. Instead, I suggested we started out with a photography exhibition from one of my favorite photographers, Mario Testino. I had already seen an installation of his in both Madrid and NYC.

 

So around 15:15 you finally met me outside. You were late, and I had counted on it. I was on time, and I’m never on time unless I’m nervous. But I needed the time to calm my nerves. Truthfully, I don’t know why I was wound up about it. I had spent time with you before, but in groups, and our flirtatious conversation and affectionate ambiguity had been taken lightly. I never let myself take romance too seriously. I don’t know if that’s because of my own insecurity or because I’m as laid back as I claim. Maybe, a mixture.

 

You looked nice though. You were in color — green and pink specifically. Mentally, I noted your favorite colors. I liked this about you, the vibrancy.

 

You smiled and we greeted, and then we were on our way.

 

The metro ride was particular. I couldn’t look at you, or else I would have just kept smiling like an idiot. So I never kept eye-contact with you for longer than normal. Plus, my uncomfortable habit of looking at someone in the eyes too long — I didn’t want to make things awkward within the first 10 minutes.

It took us about 30 minutes to get to the other side of Berlin, to the museum that hosted the exhibition. Turns out, the museum had the wrong address on their website and the installation was actually in a sister building about another 20 minutes away. However, by the time we would have gotten there, we wouldn’t have had enough time to see it properly.

 

“We’re going to laugh about this later in the future,” I noted, a bit disappointed.

 

“Why later? It’s funny now,” you answered back, with your dimpled smile.

 

So instead, we decided on having a drink, at a Mexican restaurant called Que Pasa.

 

Was I tempted to have a real drink, and by real, I mean alcoholic? Yes, absolutely. Especially since it was already 5pm. But I didn’t.

 

My desire to want to spend time with you sober superseded it. The times we had hung out together with our group of classmates had always somehow involved ending up drunk, and us walking home together. I’d walk you to courtyard between the both of our buildings just talking and star-gazing. Well, what little star-gazing you can do in a city of clouds — undoubtedly drunk. You even invited me into your apartment once, but I didn’t make a move. I didn’t want to and I also didn’t know what was going on. I just wanted to enjoy whatever was happening without moving too fast.

 

So I chose a Sprite instead.

 

You drank a hot chocolate.

 

And we talked about family and aspirations and school for a few hours over a loaded plate of nachos.

 

You told me you were a vegetarian for a few years of your life. So I found it ironic when you chose chicken to coat the chips. Well, we all have our guilty pleasures, I suppose.

 

Afterwards, I asked if you wanted to go to the festival and check it out. What I meant was — do you want to try all the food stalls with me and dance around and be fools together?

 

You aren’t originally from Berlin, but have lived here for a good four or so years, minus your year abroad in Korea. But you had never been to the festival. It’d be your first time too, and I was happy to experience this with you.

 

We walked around for an hour or so, before you decided on what you wanted to eat. A delicacy from Hungary — I can’t quite remember the name, but it’s their version of a pizza coated with garlic, a white yogurt sauce, and cheese — again, you also added meat: salami, this time. Said it reminded you of your father.

 

“You’re going to have to deal with me eating a lot of garlic… hope you don’t mind.”

 

I found the comment odd, but I didn’t mention it. Just said I wanted to try it how it’s meant to be eaten.

 

So we sat at the picnic tables put out beside the food stand, which was also placed right beside one of the many musical stages of the festival. It was a German group playing songs in many different languages. French, English, German.

 

We stayed watching them for 20 minutes or so, while you ate. We hardly spoke at all. But it wasn’t uncomfortable. In fact, it’s one of my favorite things to find in a person. when you can shut the fuck up with them and still have fun.

 

Once you finished, we got up to leave. I walked ahead of you into the crowd, while the band continued overhead playing a song. I didn’t understand the lyrics, but I figured it must be German since I couldn’t catch any French.

 

Then I felt your hand on my shoulder and I turned around to look at you.

 

“Kiss me now, and I will be in paradise in Heaven.”

 

I am sure the look on my face betrayed me. I’m not that great of a liar. So after a few seconds of looking into each other’s eyes, I blurted out, “What?”

 

“It’s the lyric they just sang,” you said, as you smiled casually and then led me out of the crowd.

 

I closed my eyes and followed you, wondering if that was what the song had really said — wondering if I had missed my chance.

 

But let’s be real. I didn’t know if we were on a date or not, honestly.

 

A few days earlier, we had gone on a picnic with my group of friends. I had invited you, and you accepted. There was lots of food and lots of alcohol — two of my favorite things. So naturally, we got very inebriated.

 

Afterwards, we walked from the park to my friend’s house to continue our day of fun. While we strolled to theirs, you and I somehow ended up side by side. I can’t quite recall what got us onto the topic but we had both mentioned how we wanted to hangout, but not get super drunk. Since the past few times had all ended very drunk, but that’s what happens in large groups of socialization.

 

“We should make a date out of it.”

I was pretty intoxicated at this moment already, but I remember it. The “date” word. It took me by surprise.

 

“Yeah, okay, we should.” Then I asked when and we were trying to figure it out, but got interrupted by our friends and their intruding conversations.

 

So when we finally decided to meet up, just us two, it was never explicitly stated if this was our date or not. I wasn’t even sure you remembered what you said, or if it was just drunken words, so I didn’t bring it up. I just thought I’d go out with you and figure it out during. If nothing else, I wanted to be your friend at least. 

 

That was a dumb idea — but also very brilliant because it took the pressure off of a label.

 

After eating, we decided to check out the parade. So we followed the crowd into the fray. You put your arm on my shoulder to keep hold of me. I was too nervous to grab your hand. I had told you previously in a different hang out how intimate holding hands was to me, possibly more important than kissing.

 

So I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable — even though we had already held hands in the club, but that was different. I was drunk and friendly then.

 

Now, I was sober and interested — and that’s a deadly combination, for me. Once we got to the street the parade was on, the crowd tightened. So we crossed the street to the other side to be on the less busy part, or so we thought. Once there, we realized how packed it was, too. I let you stand in front to see, and I stood behind you.

 

One of the first floats we saw represented Ghana. The truck had a DJ and many dancers in the back. And there was a massive following of Ghanaians dancing around the truck to afro-beats and their own mix of reggae. This excited the energy in the crowd. People were chanting in solidarity and enjoyment, and dancing around with bottles in hand. You turned to look at me, with the biggest smile.

 

“This is awesome, look at all the colors and dress they’re wearing!”

 

I grinned back at you in response, and for the life of me, I cannot remember how it happened. I know for sure I didn’t exclusively go for your hand.

 

But I know it wasn’t just you either.

 

It just happened.

 

And there we were, in the middle of a huge raging crowd, looking at each other, our fingers intertwined.

 

You turned back around, and I expected you to let go. But you didn’t. Instead you gave my hand a small squeeze, and we stayed that way for a long while, watching the rest of the parade. I couldn’t concentrate much anymore though.

 

All I could feel was the heat between our skin, and how nice it was to hold your hand — but also how confusing.

 

We decided to cross and go back to the festival grounds to get more food — as I hadn’t eaten yet and was getting hungry.

 

There was a knot in my stomach, but it wasn’t from hunger. I realized in this beautiful moment that it was the first time I have ever held hands with another girl openly. Without shame, without secrets, without guilt.

 

I’m 25 and before that Sunday, I had never held hands with another girl so freely. Not with my fling I had before I moved to Spain, and not with my almost 4 year relationship. Not with any of the girls I “dated” in between, either. I hadn’t felt comfortable enough with myself yet.

 

And here I was, holding hands with a beautiful girl. A girl who didn’t make me feel like I needed to hide what I felt.

 

And you know, her and I can turn out to be nothing. We could stop talking today and never speak again — and I will always remember this moment, and how she was and always will be part of a very important experience for me.

 

Maybe this is why holding hands is so intimate for me. Because I’ve never done it before with someone and it felt so… normal.

 

No one gave us weird looks, or ridiculed us, or said anything out of the ordinary.

 

But it was you, too. You didn’t pull back, or make it feel awkward. Just comfortable.

 

I can’t describe it properly, how it made me feel. Just that it felt so normal. It’s the first time in my life, I’ve felt like a girl who likes another girl and that’s normal.

 

I’m sure at the end of the night, I could have tried to kiss you.

 

I didn’t want to though. Why ruin the moment? It was enough for me, to have your hand in mine.

 

A little after midnight, we decided to go to a bar. One of my favorites. Madame Claude. I only had one beer — one. That’s it. At a bar, filled with alcohol. Guess I was enjoying you so much. You intoxicated me.

 

We stayed until about 4:30am, when we decided it was time to go home. Time had escaped me. I couldn’t believe we had spent nearly 14 hours together. I had mentioned it to you at the bar. How I had other plans just in case our hangout was awkward, and you told me the same. You had been out until 4/5am the past few nights and were really tired. And had you not been enjoying yourself, you would have used this as a reason to excuse yourself earlier.

 

We both laughed harder than we meant to, I think. It was good to know I wasn’t the only one nervous.

 

As we walked home, some random drunk guy asked you for sex in German. Said you guys could do it really fast. You scoffed and turned him down. But he kept trying to talk to you. I really didn’t understand anything at the moment, with my limited German skills.

 

But then I felt your hand slip through my arm, and you pulled yourself closer to me. I knew that feeling perfectly, without you having to explain. You felt safe around me, and kept your arm looped in mine. You walked close to me, on the way home. Eventually, dropping your arm to hold my hand instead.

 

“You’re comfortable to be around.” You said, before letting go of my hand so I could open the door for us.

 

We stood at the base of the stairs. Normally, I would walk you to the courtyard between our buildings up to your door to your building. I don’t know why, but I didn’t this time.

 

I just hugged you, and you held on to me for longer than a regular hug.

 

“I know you’re tired, so I’ll let you sleep.”

 

You smirked at me, and said breathlessly between us, “I had a really good time.”

 

“Me too.” I held your gaze for a few silent moments. Even in the dark, your blue eyes were crystal clear.

 

And then I watched you walk away — and I couldn’t help but wonder, if it was a date or not.

 

But I knew, even if it wasn’t, I’d always remember it for more important reasons.

The Importance of Being Earnest

Early March, 2008

Mrs. Hall’s voice, velvet yet commanding, echoed throughout the dim lit auditorium like thunder before the flood. She wanted two things before One Act practice began; silence and light.

Today we would be practicing Act II, Scene 2… or perhaps more appropriate, the kissing scene. It only required the lead actor and actress to be on stage, so the rest of us sat in the stillness as the audience, leaving our characters behind backstage in the wings.

The single beam of radiance shone directly downstage, pouring florescent gasoline down the bodies of the two actors, their chemistry being the catalytic spark to set them ablaze against a backdrop of midnight darkness. They were ready to execute their skills as magicians of the stage.

There’s a chant we say every time before we put on a show. All of the cast members and the backstage crew will stand in a circle facing the middle, crossover our arms like an X, and hold hands. We say a simple line, “There’s magic in the theatre, and the theatre is magic.” After saying this, we all spin to the right, and because our arms are crossed, we are magically able to remain holding hands in a circle while facing out. Then we let go, and give the performance of our life, as if our last.

I sat in my seat, anxiously nervous that my pounding heart would have Mrs. Hall giving my part away to another sophmore. You were on my right, casually watching the senior and junior on stage rehearse their lines over and over again; the light in your copper brown eyes darting between the two on stage; distracting me from the play and reminding me of the reality of us.

The innocence of a first relationship makes new experiences thrilling and terrifying.

Out of my group of friends my age, I was the only one who had not had her first kiss yet. I had eclipsed my colleagues in music, academics, martial arts, surpassed all my freakishly intelligent cousins, whom I’d always been compared to, in achievements and honors in schoool, and tried to keep my family name clean from the detrimental past mistakes of my brothers.

And yet, I found myself frozen in a black hole too abashed to kiss you.

A couple of days before, you had tried to kiss me in the city park, under the stars on top of your grandmother’s blanket – and naturally, bewildered me, turned and you caught my right cheek. I remember your smile, as normal, you played it cool. Why were you always trying to act so cool? Impassively, you shrugged off your wounded pride, and kissed my left cheek – lightheartedly now – too, mouthing against my skin in humor, “I really like kissing your cheeks.”

I slid down in my chair, my hands intertwined atop my stomach, I could feel the heat radiate off your body – and it made me distressingly uncomfortable in my own skin – and this is why I liked theatre, more than not, I was better at being a different character, a different person, a different human.

But I couldn’t take my eyes off of you. I stole glances at you every moment I could – even though I was supposed to be directing my attention to the stage. You were what I wanted to look at, you were the light and silence my heart commanded me to pay attention to. And I am an adamant believer in following my blood-pumping organ.

In my 5 seconds of insane courage, I leaned over through the darkness and kissed your left, unguarded, cheek diligently. I pulled back immediately, not letting the electricity between our skin sear off my lips.

You turned your face towards me, in shock, I think. It was the first time I had ever seen your countenance painted with surprise, so I too was taken back by your reaction, my own display of affection gone from my system already.

In the quiet obscurity of the auditorium, we stayed staring at each other earnestly; our eyes locked in an intimate long kiss, lost in our own Act II, Scene 2.

I’ve had a weakness for light brown eyes ever since.

———————————————-

July 11th, 2015

My head lay peacefully in your lap, I was on the verge of sweet sleep, my jetlag finally wearing off, my inner clock finally converting — to my dismay — from Spanish to American again.

The blanket was wrapped snuggly around our bodies, and your fingers were swimming through my hair softly. My best friend lay on a mattress beneath us, soundly already asleep, the static noise of Harry Potter in the background… I knew, spiraling into unconsciousness I’d remember this moment.

And then you did something annoying. You pulled the soft material over our heads and began watching me drift into dreams. I could feel your eyes hammer into my face. Discontent, I kept them shut for a few seconds, however, my mind was fully awake now, fished up from the lake of slumber.

In that small moment, I posed every question in my 23 year old mind as to why you were doing this. Did you have regrets about us? Were you staring at me because it was the first time you’ve been able to in 7 years? Don’t you have a girlfriend you love? Did you still want me after all this time? Don’t you know we play for the same team? And what am I even feeling? Am I remembering feelings from the past or am I currently having these feelings? But most importantly… why the fuck am I awake when Ramon’s ass is snoring? I should be snoring, damnit.

Grouchy, my eyes finally fluttered open to receive your stare. I pursed my lips close, and clenched my jaw. I was frustrated from old feelings being resurfaced. I had gotten over this a long time ago, and nothing now could change the course of us.

The night before I had already decided that what I felt for you was the comfort of the past. I wasn’t attracted to you now, not physically or mentally, at least not in a romantic way. You had changed though, into someone more compassionate, someone kinder, more affectionate, and more open. All the things I had wanted from you 7 years ago.

I think it was the same for you, too, though. You were comfortable with me, and selfishly, we both took advantage of this. Maybe that’s why, surprisingly, I don’t feel guilty for what happened. I had learned in Spain to live in the moment, without thinking of the consequences in the future. And because you wouldn’t be a major part of my future — there was only now.

So I stared at you back.

I peered into the first pair of brown eyes that broke my heart — and instantly, a flood of thoughts.

You, somewhere, in Greece, getting ready to move your life to the Netherlands to complete your graduate degree in Economics as the economy of your own beautiful country crumbled beneath the heavy debates of money and power.

Money reminding me of green, which reminded me of your Scottish eyes. I should have gone on that date with you, but I don’t not regret going. Double negatives, you’d probably give me shit for using them in a sentence. You were probably waking up somewhere in Alicante, preparing your debate speech for anyone who dared argue with you about why this world needs feminism.

And then I thought about you, my almost Spanish lover, with the sunrise forest eyes. What violinist were you talking to on the streets for casual conversation? Were you showing a new girl the same church we walked through? I hoped that your dog was enjoying your newly renovated pool, in the sweltering Spanish sun.

Your sun-kissed Columbian skin in Madrid that I had had the pleasure of admiring in my final weeks. Distance had stopped our budding romance. Were you dating someone new already? Were you teaching someone else Columbian idioms? I laughed so much with you. We weren’t ever serious, but I seriously did enjoy our time together. You didn’t play games with my heart, and I never had to doubt if you liked me too.. I should have kissed you.

And then I thought of you, and your Italian sea green eyes. I smiled at this point. Were you at your parent’s house beside the sea, camouflaging your own eyes? Or were you in Milano, being posh? I missed you. And it made me think of all the other friendships I had fallen in love with this year. Norge, were you enjoying working in the fjords surrounded by isolating mountains and strange new faces? New Jersey, were you living it up and partying? Had you found a new job? Was your tattoo healing at the same rate mine was? Boston, I missed you, dearly, even though I had just visited you. Were you just as happy as me that we met first in Madrid? Were you preparing for your cousin’s wedding? God, how I wished I was drinking a michelada with you now. Marpar, was Houston treating you okay? Were you struggling to adjust to Texas again as much as I was? When do you wanna fly back to Madrid together to return home?

Home.

I broke my gaze with you, calmly and without hesitation — just as I had broken up with you all those years back — and turned around to look at my sleeping best friend.

His head was covered with a blanket, so I couldn’t see much. But his hand was outside of the cover, masking his phone, obviously. I reached over carefully, not as gracefully as I intended, and covered his hand with mine. I don’t know if he felt it or not, but I felt many things.

Here was the one person, not blood related, but more my brother than genetics could dictate, who had been with me through it all.

Sitting in his car outside our high school’s football stadium, after Julian had told me he kissed someone else.

His arm around my shoulder as I buried my grandma, after my flight from Paris had only landed that morning.

His comfort and ability to keep a secret, as my brother ran from federal arrest.

His sympathy, as much as he could muster, during my brother’s trial and sentence. Offering to take me to see him, no matter how stubborn I was to resist.

His willingness to stay with me, to mend me, to act as my caretaker when I lost myself to heartbreak — the first heartbreak to shatter my soul, and make me forget who I am — but he was there to remind me, and to love me, even when I was at my most unlovable.

No matter how far I moved, no matter how many times I ranaway. When I toured Europe the first time, when I went to college across the state (which is a big deal, since Texas is so fucking gigantic), when I moved to Greece for love, when I repositioned my life to Spain for myself.

No matter how much longitude and latitude I put between us, I could count on him to answer his phone after a drunken night in Madrid.

A true Hufflepuff, through and through. Hardworking, loyal, dependent, just, and patient. I admired him for who he was. Our friendship a true testament to my own doubtful mind of love forever.

Laughing softly, I looked back at Julian and said tenderly, “I want to punch him.” Your eyes changed then. From liquid amber intimacy to innocent and fragile friendship. This was how I wanted us, as we were before a relationship separated our hearts. I wanted you as a friend, nothing more, but also nothing less.

You leaned down to kiss me, and I closed to my eyes and prayed your target wasn’t my mouth. Then your lips hit my cheek gently, lingering against my skin, you muttered, “I really like kissing your cheek.”

————————————————-

July 13th, 2015 13/7/2015

My phone buzzed in my lap, your name across the screen. I hadn’t expected to hear from you after our confusing weekend of feelings past.

“You guys will be together forever. It’s good to see.”