I’ve pinpointed the exact moment I really felt it, and it was the last moment.
I bungled the handoff. I asked if she minded if I walked her from the coffee shop to the library, and she said of course, like it was obvious that we’d extend this first date thing as long as possible. We walked and talked and we didn’t hold hands, even though mine was free, but we bumped into each other comfortably all the way down High Street. We were warm.
When we got to the library, she slowed down, like she’d forgotten how close it was and regretted not taking the scenic route. We stumbled in our conversation for maybe the third time that evening but this time nobody saved it. People were walking past to get inside. We both desperately scanned each other, looking for what we wanted this to look like.
She didn’t meet my eyes, so I went for the safe hug. She giggled and hugged me back, but didn’t let go when we separated. “You copped out,” she said. I laughed and agreed. Before I could make an ass of myself, she pulled me in by my back, then my neck.
I simultaneously felt how strong and how small she was in an instant, solid but airy like snow. She wanted that kiss and she took it. We were out of breath when we pulled back. It’d only been a moment. I made a dumb crack about ‘loving to do that again’ and she hauled me back in.
I sincerely don’t know how long we stood there. It can’t have been long, but it felt... stretched. I could feel my mind frantically committing every sense to memory as thoroughly as it could manage, the smell of her hair and the feel of her hands on my neck and my hands on her back and her lips on mine. The sound of her minuscule sigh as we finally separated.
She was blushing. I was blushing too. That was the moment. I cannot honestly say that I have blushed like that ever before in my life.
I want to make the magnitude of that known, precisely. I have kissed eleven women and two men by this point in my life. I loved two with the puppy love of youth that was not much considered but felt. Two with the quiet ease of comfortable familiarity. Two with the air of a man desperately bailing water, begging for someone, anyone to help patch the holes in the bow. The other seven I didn't love at all, but thought of them with various shades of curiosity or lust or pity or all three. Two others were almost-kisses, misguided drunken liaisons narrowly avoided but thrilling in taboo. This was none of these.
I coolly, rationally, deeply, and irrevocably decided that this woman deserved a piece of my heart, and before I could offer it to her, she just... swept it away, and held it gently in her hands.
God, I hope it was her moment too.
Because right after that moment, while my brain was transcribing every detail of her eyelashes and my heart was giving away pieces of itself and my guts were beginning the flutter that still hasn’t stopped and grows stronger whenever I think back on that moment, I cracked another joke. I said, “That’s not what I meant by ‘again’ but I’m not mad.” Or something silly to that effect. Something stupid. Something automatic, belittling the fireworks behind my eyes. She laughed and turned away. We stuttered some parting lines at each other, made eye contact once more, then went our separate ways.
But when we turned to leave each other, our hands, which had somehow found each other in all the mess, stayed together, bridging the gap to the last fingertip length, before falling, slowly, fingers still reaching.
I think it might have been her moment too.
Two-month update: It wasn't her moment. But it inspired this write-up, which I happen to quite like. There's always a silver lining.