I had graduated from an all girl’s high school where we were taught for three full years to avoid men at all costs in order not to become what they would want us as: objects to have fun with. Butrus was nothing like what I had learned to fear during my pre-college education. He was gentle, patient, observant of my reactions to any physical closeness between us and respectfully distant whenever I looked uncomfortable. I can’t remember exactly when I allowed him to hold my hand. In private, that is. In public, I was not at ease for a very long time. Nothing, in other words, the waiters of Café must have been witnessing other couples do day in and day out. We must have known one another for about a year and a half, I believe, when he reached out to my hand on the street, near my home, on our way back from one of our concert dates, and held it from then on at every chance he got. I didn’t reject his hand touch on mine that night –or at any other time. For, he looked so overjoyed that evening. I thought he did straighten his upper back and his shoulders a little –he had a slight slouch what I always believed to be on my account, since I am petite, and stretched his neck somewhat, his lips hinting at a faint proud smile in their attractive upward curl, as if to shout out to the world: My rose really takes me as her boyfriend. A real boyfriend.
After that day, much more physical attraction between us filled the air–no matter where we were. We never acted upon that feeling of the unknown pull. But it was there. Notably so. After one of our evenings of absorbing yet another spectacular performance by the Ankara Philharmonic Orchestra, only, this time, distracted by how much more closer our bodies were drawn to one another, the coat check room became our confession stand: our fiery eyes met. He was caressing me with his, and I, him, with mine. I felt I was running a sudden fever. On our way home, my home, that is, where he would always take me back after any of our outings, all the way to the door, we didn’t talk for a long time. It was snowing. Gentle flakes. Gentle just like my Butrus. Although, this time, I felt his hand gripping mine in a far more strong hold than ever before. I responded the same way. The darkness encouraged us to an almost first-kiss-on-the-lips, when Butrus stopped walking, turned toward me, held me on my shoulders with a very soft touch and neared his face to mine. I looked away.
“Forgive me, Huban. I am finding it more and more difficult to resist you in this way. I will be strong, of course, because you don’t want to take our relationship to the next level. But, please, please know how unbearable it is for me sometime to be so close to you every day and on our concert evenings, yet not be able to feel you in the way we both seem to want.”
“Butrus, I am sorry. I really am. I feel the attraction to you, too. But our relationship is so pure. Our love is so unique. Let us please not spoil it in any way. Promise me?”
“Alright. I promise, my rose. I know we still have several years until we can get married. For that, we must be patient. I must be patient. Do you think, though, you will consider allowing me a kiss after our promise ceremony?”
“I can’t tell you anything now, Butrus. I really can’t. Please try to understand me in this. Now, can we talk about something else?”
A year later, we were promisedto one another in a simple ceremony, fulfilling everyone’s expectation: the parents, extended family members, neighbors, close friends and acquaintances. We had, after all, been going out for a long time, when all others were concerned. Our event was quite different from that of my parents: we both were adamant about not having any of the superfluous formalities. Our families accepted our appeal, although not without trying to convince us otherwise. With his family living in another city, the crowd was also very manageable. I have a small family, after all. And Butrus was an only child. My mother, though, had insisted on inviting three people outside the family: our long-time friend, Auntie Tufan, the widow who lived in the flat right across from ours sharing the same short hallway with us. She had become a widow when her children were very young. The first time we met was during our apartment’s construction period when all of us children played on the dirt street before our building, the only one as far as our eyes could see, while the parents checked out the quality of the materials. Her daughter Asul was four years my senior, her son Avranos, five. Avranos had one arm in cast.
Our calm afternoon of promises had everyone talking even months later: a delectable collection of appetizers, champagne, fine entrees and desserts–thanks to my mom’s incredible cooking and baking skills (and remarkable capacity for physical endurance), polished silver-plated serving trays, bowls and utensils placed between delicate flower arrangements and buffeted on our round dining table atop my mother’s lace-edged linen table cloths.
Aside from now having a memorable landmark of formality in our relationship–made even more memorable by my mother’s days-long labor, nothing had changed between Butrus and me. We were as close to one another as before. We could complete each other’s sentences, hence, thoughts, with as much ease as before. We loved to experience any and all cultural activities and special events Ankara had to offer us as often as before, and we were exchanging our reports of concerts, plays, films, poetry readings and music festivals with as much professional pretense as ever before. One change, however, had happened: my mother began to invite Butrus over for meals on occasion–to his considerable excitement. He had, after all, been one of the first-hand witnesses to my mom’s reputation as a great cook and pastry chef by any definition. On those occasions, we were both allowed in my room. Not as a demand from my parents but at my own will, the door always stayed open. In my room or elsewhere, Butrus could not give me his long-awaited kiss for almost two more years. I wanted that kiss myself. With a strong urge, at that. Yet, I did not think it to be proper behavior back then. Plain but not simple. Not simple at all. It’s more than just the fact that I graduated from-an-all-girls’-high school; as to why I had begun to feel torn between passion for Butrus and duty–to fulfill my brother’s ideal of a good girl. Of course, that some of my extended family members but also close family friends and vocal, self-righteous neighbors as well.
(Thank you for stopping by. Do come back, if you’d so please.)