“I am going to tell you something but if you repeat it to anyone else, I’ll deny it.”
We’d been in the same room for hours but I was looking at his face for perhaps the first time. He was younger than I might have guessed at first, deep wrinkles that might have validated the wisdom and experience he had shared earlier, noticeably missing from his face. Instead, there was an errant dimple in one dark-skinned cheek that he rubbed now with the back of his white long-sleeves as if he could erase the humor from the situation or his words.
We hadn’t been talking, he and I. At least, we hadn’t been talking to each other. We had been part of a larger group, a heated discussion about something we were both interested in. Sure, I’d addressed the group – as had he – but we hadn’t said anything to each other. Around us, the group was dispersing, bodies brushing by us in a haze of fast-moving shadows. Black metal-framed glasses slid down his nose and he pulled them off, letting them dangle in his fingers.
His statement was unexpected to say the least. But it was his, now exposed, face that puzzled me. He was going to let me into a secret that would be ours alone and I didn’t know whether I wanted to share that with him.
This exclusive club that I would now belong to, he had already opened the door. Now I had to decide whether I wanted to step in. Was the invitation circumspect? Maybe. But it was more the way he was looking at me, his eyes trained on me with a hint of… Exclusivity? Secrecy? Embarrassment? It wasn’t a look I’ve seen often and I didn’t know him well enough to deduce what emotion lurked behind his hooded eyes.
Should I look around for help? Should I run? Or should I step even closer for the revelation he promised.
He reached out for my hand, beckoning me into the club, his lips closer to my ear than they’d ever been. I must have nodded my assent. I must have leaned in for the secret, the words that would bind us forever.
“If I’d seen you first, I would have married you.”
I stepped back. We weren’t well acquainted but I knew enough to know he didn’t have a wife. Nor I a husband.
What did he mean by, ‘if I’d seen you first’? Or was that also part of the secret.
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