“Please don’t be mad at me. I don’t mean to bother you. And please know, I am very sorry, if I do. You see, I am an avid reader. Apparently, you are also one. When I saw you from the end of the hallway over there, looking immersed in your book atop that radiator piece –”
I started laughing. (It was more a giggle first.) All along, thinking I should frown upon his blunt approach to me. The minute he began to describe my strange seating choice, however, I couldn’t help but look up and laugh, almost out loud, feeling relieved he didn’t look anything like a serial killer or a Don Juan. Tall–above the top of my head, for sure, even though my radiator seat gave me extra inches and I wasn’t practicing the correct posture my mom always instructed me with. Anyway: tall. Slender, shapely body in a sporty outfit, slanting eyes of dark brown hues behind clear, stylish glasses. Light brown, mid-length hair–as straight as leak, as we phrase hair, lacking body in Turkish (at times, with jealousy for the no-show of those typical dense curls). I must have looked real strange, even comical, perched on the rather narrow marble sill the builders tended to put back then on top of public radiators in order to diffuse the heat beyond the point of burning someone who may accidently touch the open bars (in homes, each household was responsible for such mobile installments–a welcome addition to keep the teapot, a most essential household item for Turkish families, warm enough in any room for those early morning, afternoon and evening tea rituals). My giggle must have given him the relief he seemed to have needed–he was rather tense until my first laugh echoed in the high ceiling of the hallway opposite of the one he said he saw me from:
“May I please join you? Unless you are studying for an exam –,” he asked.
“Do have a seat. But please be careful. What you will be sitting on is, after all, a rare collection item.”
Now, we were both laughing–hard. His eyes almost disappeared into a thin line what I thought to be quite adorable. Faint laugh lines appeared below and on the corners of his lower eyelids. How both of his lips curled upward when the first laugh came to him gave me a sensation somewhere inside my body I could not locate. I knew, though, I had not yet felt that way before. The sound he made with his whole-body laugh was the first example for me for an attractive laughing style some people were talking about. I ended up sharing my radiator with him as well as what was to be the first of countless long conversations between us for the next most unforgettable four years to come:
“No, this is not a course book,” I blurted, fearing he may disappear fast right before my eyes–the way he had appeared, if I responded any slower, “with the library still under construction, whenever I find a quiet corner between classes, I read as much as I can from my favorite novels.”
“I am sorry to take away from your quiet time. I really am. But, I must also be frank: even if you’d ask me to leave, I can’t and won’t. Unless, of course, you decide to call the campus police on me. Come to think of it, even then, I won’t leave.”
I gave him a look what must have seemed to him like a gigantic question mark.
“You see, I didn’t actually see you from the hallway over there. At least, not for the first time today. I noticed you on the first day of the semester. It was a rather cold October day. You were dressed almost all in black: high-neck black top, black-belted black pants with a beige long cardigan on top – “
Now, I was worried. Alright, no Don Juan or a serial killer maybe, but what about a stalker? He was describing details about my appearance I myself no longer remembered. Without noticing my distracted moment, he went on:
“You were wearing a thick cord necklace with a large image of the sun in gold color, black medium-high heel boots and you had your hair down, just like today. You didn’t see me. I was behind you on the first day of registration. Waiting in line to the right of you, with students who didn’t request any advising. You were together with a woman. She was in the middle of a discussion with a counselor. Your attention was fixed on them. So, I didn’t talk to you then.”
He gave me such a sweet smile that I stopped thinking I may have a stalker right before me. How could those eyes, that diction, those refined mannerisms belong to someone who had issues those personalities do? No way! He behaved as balanced as I knew myself to be.
“I came with my mom that day,” I replied. “I still wasn’t sure what area of study I was going to enroll in. She was getting a crash course for both of us on several possibilities from one of the advisors on site.”
“Do you have a major yet?”
“Education. And you?”
“Sociology,” he blurted with enthusiasm, “with a possible second major in Philosophy.”
“I wish I could also study Philosophy but my parents think –”
What my parents, family members or neighbors would have thought of Butrus didn’t enter my mind for years. If a person could, indeed, be too happy, he made me into one. In every which way I knew how to be. The world was surely a magnificent place to live in with him.
“Hello, my rose, hello! Right on time, true? Oh, how I love our nightly routine!
To hear your voice once more before our day ends. Let me tell you something to smile about: the waiters at the Café are making strange eyes at me right now, while I am looking at them through the phone booth’s window, behind the ancient old ivy’s strategically thick curve. I can guess what they must be thinking: ‘Wasn’t this guy here just this evening, until closing time, sitting with his gorgeous girlfriend at their usual table? What’s he doing, still sticking around after hours?’
“Oh, so you hear them tell each other I am gorgeous, is that so?”
“Well, you ARE! I still can’t believe you are my girlfriend, Huban,” he almost shouted, “please, tell me one more time. For the night.”
“Hello, hello, announcement incoming: Butrus and I are boyfriend-girlfriend. Put that on record so that no one will ever forget it, okay?”
“Okay, Okay, I won’t ask you anymore. Until tomorrow. One more thing, though, before we say goodbye for the night: the guys at the Café must also be talking behind our backs, wondering what kind of a boyfriend and girlfriend team we are, not even holding hands –“
“Butrus, you know –“
“I know, I know. I am sorry for bringing it up like this. Could we, please, talk about it sometime, though?”
“You know how I am, how I was brought up. So, please –“
“Alright, alright,” he interrupted me, “I am being unfair to you. I’ll stop talking about us in that way.”
(Thank you for visiting. Please come back for the next parts. I hope you won’t be disappointed.)